Between a visit at the shopping mall and at their real estate agent, Chinese tourists create growth in the U.S.

Chinese Dad in car - China Elite FocusThe number of Chinese tourists traveling the globe has increased significantly for the last ten years, making them the largest group of travelers in the world. Now, thanks in part to a recent agreement between the U.S. and China to extend visas for short-term business travelers, tourists and students, the U.S. could see an increase in Chinese travelers in the near future.

This trend is supported by research from the latest Chinese International Travel Monitor (CITM) from Hotels.com which reveals the U.S. is the second most popular destination for Chinese travelers to visit in the next 12 months (behind France), with popular U.S. landmarks like the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty topping travel wish lists.
The CITM research also identifies that, while cities in Asia Pacific remain the most popular (82 percent of Chinese travelers have visited in the past 12 months), visitors to Europe and America have increased with a year over year growth of 25 percent and 11 percent, respectively. These destinations were particularly popular with millennial travelers, with 42 percent visiting Europe and 29 percent visiting America in the past 12 months.

“The CITM reveals that the United States is one of the top five countries Chinese travelers visit the most,” said Josh Belkin, vice president and GM of the Hotels.com brand. “With tens of thousands of places to stay across the U.S., like distinctive boutiques, spacious vacation rentals and familiar chains, our site and mobile app have the perfect places for Chinese travelers of all ages and lifestyles.”

In 2016, there were 122 million outbound Chinese tourists – four percent more than in 2015 and a massive 74 percent more than in 2011, when the first CITM was published. China is already the largest source of international travelers for many countries – despite the fact only 10 percent of the population had passports in 2016.

“Chinese travelers in the United States tend to be more affluent than those who choose other destinations”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC and Founder of the STC magazine, a luxury travel digital publication in Chinese Mandarin. “Real Estate investment in the United States is now the #1 real reason – and rarely stated in surveys – for affluent and wealthy Chinese outbound travelers, as they have acquired for $100 billion in U.S. Real Estate in 2016”

Source: Chinese Tourists in America Blog / CITM

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Chinese shoppers in the U.S. can now use WeChat Pay & Alipay, China’s leading mobile payment solutions

A Chinese shopper using WeChat Pay - China Elite FocusCitcon, the integrated payment and marketing platform, announced a strategic partnership to enable brands in North America to accept WeChat Pay and Alipay.

WeChat Pay and Alipay are the most popular and convenient payment options for Chinese consumers to purchase goods and services. Adding these payment options to retail point of sale allows brands to now tap into an even larger revenue stream from Chinese consumers who are the largest spender, and fastest growing traveler segment to the North America. The platform enables brands to optimize revenue growth without the costs and hassles of establishing a business entity in China.

WeChat Pay is a fully integrated payment solution within WeChat, the world’s most popular mobile social communications service with 936 million active users and Alipay is a super lifestyle app run by Ant Financial Services Group with more than 450 million active users. Together these platforms jointly account for 90% of China’s mobile payment market share. Both super apps allow users to book a trip, hail a taxi, order food, purchase movie tickets, pay for water and electricity bills, manage investments, perform transactions on e-commerce websites and more to create a cashless society.

“China is changing fast. Mobile payment is the new frontier of commerce and China is leading this trend. By providing an integrated and easy-to-use payment solution, Citcon is creating a future that takes payment and marketing to the next level, empowering global merchants to drive business growth with millions of Chinese consumers.”said Chuck Huang, Founder and CEO of Citcon

As the first payment partner of WeChat Pay and Alipay, in addition to major credit cards such as UnionPay, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, Citcon is a one-stop shop for merchants to connect with Chinese consumers and accept payments anywhere. Citcon’s stand-alone mobile point-of-sale (mPOS), easy-to-integrate API and software products empower merchants to optimize growth both online and offline, with an easy and affordable rate compared to credit card processing. In addition to the convenient payment solutions, merchants will also be able to gain in-depth consumer behavior insights, manage business performance, run marketing campaigns, guides users to merchants stores while saving their shopping preferences for future visits and manage lifetime customer loyalty programs.

“Accepting WeChat Pay is a smart move for U.S. Retailers. That will definitely help with the category of budget-conscious Chinese travelers who choose to travel in groups. But they must keep in mind that the most affluent categories prefer to pay with their international credit cards, who show their status when traveling overseas and offer more perks in terms of miles and reward points.” commented Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC, a media group specialized in luxury travel publications for very affluent Chinese outbound travelers.

Source: Citcon / Chinese Tourists in America

Targeting Affluent Chinese shoppers the Bloomingdale’s way: Talking to the heart of Chinese tourists planning a U.S. trip

Bloomingdale's Interviews -Shanghai Travelers Club May 2015 -7The growing purchasing power of affluent Chinese travelers is making it more important than ever for luxury brands and luxury retail brands to adopt marketing strategies to target them. With Chinese third-party mobile payment systems like Alipay and WeChat Pay beginning to set up shop in popular global tourist destinations, catering to this traveling consumer is becoming easier to do, but it’s not a brand’s only option.

Digital intelligence firm L2’s recent report “Cross-Border and Travel Retail: Connecting Digitally with China’s Shoppers” discusses ways brands can be targeting consumers online both during their journey overseas and before they set off.

“[Luxury brands] are under-serving the traveling Chinese consumer, whether it’s through their own brand site and its functionality and capability, their WeChat account, or from leveraging things like WeChat Pay and Alipay,” said Danielle Bailey, head of Asia Pacific Research at L2. “It’s a huge missed opportunity for them to not engage on these platforms that Chinese consumers are using all the time. Their phone is their number one travel accessory.”

Brands that do engage consumers digitally abroad with an omnichannel approach are using platforms like Alipay’s “Overseas Travel Channel (支付宝境外游)” to give travelers exclusive gifts, better exchange rates, or let them find deals near where they’re going, all within the app on their mobile device. WeChat’s website within an app feature gives consumers the opportunity to reserve a product online to pick up in a store and access store locators in their own language that they can hand to a taxi driver en route.
But about half of Chinese travelers are doing research on what they want to buy abroad before they leave, and luxury brands have been adopting strategies to target these consumers, according to L2.

Bloomingdale's Interviews with Chinese customers -Shanghai Travelers Club May 2015 -4In a dissent opinion, Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the STC magazine, a digital travel media in Chinese Mandarin, said “The most important for retailers is not the way Chinese shoppers are going to pay. It’s a technicality. Chinese Customers who want to make a purchase have plenty of options: Cash, credit Cards or WeChat Pay.  The really important thing to do is to convince them to choose a particular retailer”

“Too oftenly, we see U.S. retailers being obsessed by Chinese mobile payment systems when their strategy should be focused on branding their image to Chinese millennial travelers, and create an emotional connection with their future customers, based on their brand values”, Gervois added.

A good starting point is to provide an international store locator on their official online store in China, a strategy about 72 percent of brands employ. However, brands can also take it a step further by adding a Chinese-language travel retail site that let shoppers research the products, compare prices, read reviews, view maps that direct them to duty free shops, and even let them purchase the product online in advance so that they can simply pick it up at the airport if they’re in a hurry.
To help consumers find these pages, brands are paying for search term generated Baidu ads. L2 lists the efforts of beauty brands as an example—many brands pay for cosmetics-related key words, while others, like Lancôme, are taking a more travel-centric approach, targeting consumers researching phrases like “South Korean vacation.”

Some high end retailers, such as Bloomingdale’s, choose a more qualitative approach, and advertise in luxury digital travel publications about the U.S., like the STC magazine, available for mobile but also in digital inflight entertainment.

Bloomingdale's Interviews with Chinese customers -Shanghai Travelers Club May 2015 -3With a very creative advertising campaign created by China Elite Focus Magazines in New York, they organized interviews of actual Mainland Chinese customers while shopping at their Third avenue flagship store.  The story of six actual Chinese Bloomingdale’s customers has been published in the digital edition of the STC magazine: It has much more impact than buying keywords on Chinese search engines and directly talked to the heart of Chinese consumers.

While maintaining an engaging physical presence in airports and shopping malls is always important for marketing to the Chinese shopper abroad, brands that understand how to make the most of China’s digital sphere are likely going to more efficiently connect with Chinese travelers who are in the process of creating their luxury goods shopping list for their next overseas vacation.

Source: Jing Daily / Skift / Chinese Tourists Blog

How the U.S. is “importing” Chinese shoppers to boost retail industry

Chinese tourists family- Luxury Hotels of AmericaThe United States has long imported its food and fuel, its cars and clothes. Now the faltering economy has sparked a push for another type of import: shoppers.
For the first time, lawmakers, businesses and even White House officials are courting consumers from cash-rich countries such as China, India and Brazil to fill the nation’s shopping malls and pick up the slack for penny-pinching Americans. They are wooing travelers with enticements such as coupons, beauty pageants and promises of visa reform. The payoff, they say, could be significant: 1.3 million new jobs and an $859 billion shot in the arm for the economy over the next decade.
“They’re their own little stimulus program,” said David French, senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation, a trade group.

Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, added “Chinese travelers are first, shoppers. The main reason for their leisure trip to the United States is shopping in 90% of the cases”. The trend underscores the depth of the United States’ reliance on countries once considered to be at the bottom of the global totem pole. The nation already counts on China and other countries to manufacture its goods, creating a $45 billion trade imbalance that is paid for with money borrowed from their coffers. Now officials are encouraging foreign travelers to buy some of those products back — and a growing number are happy to oblige. Guo Hui, 37, who lives in Beijing, recently returned home from a two-week tour of Yellowstone National Park, Houston and Los Angeles. He estimated he spent $2,000 to rent a car and pay for gas and lodging for himself and his wife. Then there was the Ed Hardy T-shirt, the Apple laptop, the HP laptop, even baby food and formula for his child, totaling an additional $6,000.


Still, Guo said prices are significantly cheaper than in China — a pair of Adidas sneakers costs only $25 at a U.S. outlet mall.
“For that price in China, you can’t even buy counterfeits,” he said.

In contrast, spending by American shoppers — long considered the engine of the nation’s economy — has slowed to a crawl as families struggle under high unemployment rates and depressed home prices. The U.S. gross domestic product last year grew an anemic 3 percent, while China’s and India’s shot up 10 percent. Brazil’s clocked in at about 7.5 percent.
Those shifting dynamics have spawned a movement to encourage foreigners to spend their newfound wealth in the United States, placing the country in the unfamiliar role of supplicant. Over the summer, President Obama’s jobs council deemed international travel among the “low-hanging fruit” for stimulating the economy. The Corporation for Travel Promotion, a public-private partnership created by Congress last year, will announce next month the first U.S. advertising campaign to promote the nation as a tourist destination. Rebecca Blank, the acting commerce secretary, called tourism a key component of “America’s exports success story.”
That’s because even though foreign shoppers are spending money in the United States, their purchases are counted as exports on the country’s balance sheet. This year, their spending is up 13 percent compared with last year, to nearly $87 billion.
The bulk of international tourism dollars comes from Canada, Japan and Britain. But Chinese spending is growing the fastest, up 39 percent in 2010, to $5 billion. Brazil’s growth was not far behind, with a 30 percent increase to $6 billion. India’s spending rose 12 percent to $4 billion.

“I don’t think you can expect foreign tourism to be a silver bullet” for the economy, said Brian Bethune, an economics professor at Amherst College. “But it makes an important difference. . . . It’s a no-brainer in some sense.”
That is why the Nevada Commission on Tourism lobbied to play host to the semifinal round of the Miss Chinese Cosmos beauty pageant, which wrapped up last week. The 18 contestants toured the state capital, attended a Wild West shootout in Virginia City and cruised in a Mississippi-style paddle-wheeler on Lake Tahoe with a Mark Twain impersonator. The seven-day extravaganza was broadcast to 225 million viewers across China.
“Part of it is the education for the Chinese of all that Nevada has,” said Larry Friedman, the tourism commission’s interim director. “The exposure potentially is huge.”
At the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, which sits along the California-Nevada border, travelers from China, Malaysia and South Korea have driven the shopping center’s tour bus business up 300 percent from a year ago, according to Ann Ackerman, director of marketing for AWE Talisman, which owns the mall. The center gives foreign tourists special coupon books, employs Mandarin-speaking customer service representatives and contracts translators to assist store salespeople struggling to break the language barrier. The outlets’ hotline can handle 150 languages and receives about 15 calls averaging 11 minutes each per week.
In Washington, about 10 percent of the city’s 17.3 million visitors are international travelers, but they typically stay longer and spend more than domestic tourists, according to Destination DC, the city’s tourism bureau. A foreign tourist typically spends $813 over a five-night trip, compared with $275 over a three-night stay for Americans.
Elliott Ferguson, the group’s chief executive, said the city has sales representatives in Britain and Germany and recently added one in Brazil. Last week, Iceland Air wrapped up filming of a promotional video about the District that will play on all of its flights.
Ferguson said his sales pitch focuses on the cosmopolitan aspects of the city — the food, shopping and night life — rather than politics.
“Washington is in the news every single day somewhere in the world,” he said. “But it’s not necessarily for things that make you want to come to our destination.”

But this Washington policy debate might be of interest to potential foreign tourists.
Last week, Rep. Joseph J. Heck (R-Nev.) introduced a bill aimed at cutting the time it takes to get a tourist visa to 12 days, citing waits at consulates in key markets that can stretch to more than 100 days.
The State Department has pledged to reduce wait times for appointments to 30 days, and a spokesman said it is adding a “significant” number of staffers in Brazil and China to keep up with demand. The bill is awaiting a committee hearing.
Guo, of Beijing, said he waited nearly two months for an interview for his visa. He said he is also frustrated that the pass is only good for one year, which means he could have to reapply before his next trip. New York, Miami and Orlando are on his list.
“I guess too many people want to go to the U.S.,” Hui said.

Article by Ylan Q. Mui.

Source: The Washington Post