Heathrow ‘Passenger Ambassadors’ Secretly Encouraging Chinese Travelers to Spend Money at Airport Stores

Chinese woman reading the STC magazineAn investigative report by the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 revealed that Heathrow Airport’s 250 passenger ambassadors—service staff helping travelers at the airport—are actively trying to entice tourists to spend money at airport stores. Passenger ambassadors, who were revealed to earn commission from promoting airport stores’ special offers, were found to often actively pursue Chinese travelers as they are identified as the most likely customer segment to spend big inside the airport.

The Channel 4 report, titled Dispatches: Inside Britain’s Airports, unveils that Heathrow Airport’s passenger ambassadors are responsible for what can be considered unethical behavior. By using hidden cameras and undercover reporters, reporters found that, rather than helping passengers, Heathrow’s passenger ambassadors were eager to nudge tourists toward shopping at the airport’s many stores and restaurants. The Daily Mail, which also sent reporters to the airport to investigate, had one if its reporters ask a passenger ambassador for help to find her gate, only to find the ambassador ignoring the question and instead recommending where to find the “best shops and restaurants.”

In a segment of the Channel 4 report, one of Heathrow’s passenger ambassadors described that after successfully encouraging a traveler to spend money at one of the stores, store clerks would provide information on the amount spent by the traveler, which is then recorded in a terminal. According to the report, Heathrow ambassadors have the target of generating up to 4,000 GBP (US$4,960) in sales every day, with one ambassador claiming to have generated sales for as much as 10,000 GBP (US$12,403) in a single day.

Some airport ambassadors interviewed for the report also admitted to actively targeting Chinese tourists, since they’re perceived as more likely to spend substantial amounts of money in the airport’s retail outlets. The report by the Daily Mail further corroborates this claim and describes one of Heathrow’s passenger ambassadors seen “pursuing a man of Chinese appearance for 100ft, while a couple was forced to ignore another ambassador as she skipped beside them gesticulating outside the Cartier store.”

According to the job description that an undercover reporter received when applying for the job, “the majority of the role will involve interacting with passengers, persuading them to shop if they had not planned to, or encouraging them to spend more by talking to them about offers and promotions.” In contrast, a spokesperson for Heathrow airport described the practice as follows: “We provide fantastic restaurants and stores in order to offset the cost of running the airport, which keeps the cost of air fares down. Passenger ambassadors are an important part of our business, and we expect the team to put the needs of passengers first.”

While some experts interviewed for the investigative piece questioned how ethical it is to use employees who are described as there to help travelers for promotional services, none questioned the legality of the practice.

In the United Kingdom, the growing number of Chinese travelers that the country receives is perceived as a crucial engine for growth in the retail sector, particularly after the Brexit referendum which saw the British pound plunge in value against the Chinese yuan. With countless media reports describing Chinese tourists as “flocking” the country for luxury shopping as the value of the pound dropped, it should perhaps not come as a surprise that sales promoters working on a commission basis actively target this particular customer segment. For airport retail, just like other sectors in the tourism and retail industries, Chinese travelers is a customer segment to be reckoned with—with initiatives that encourage further spending among Chinese travelers potentially extremely lucrative.

Source: Jing Daily / Channel 4

Luxury Shopping in the United States: the 2016 big trend for Chinese shoppers

Shanghai Travelers' Club magazine Media Kit 2016The Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, the Chinese language publication read by China’s Elite global travelers has disclosed its much anticipated 2016 Editorial calendar yesterday. And clearly, Affluent Chinese shoppers love the United States! According to Pierre Gervois, the New York City based Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of this publication “The new generation of Chinese business travelers have clearly chosen the United States as their strategic country for their business browth. We have seen in the past two years a very strong interest from Chinese corporations – and wealthy Chinese invividuals- to invest in the United States. The more they come to the U.S. for business, the more they tend to come back with their family for a U.S. luxury leisure & shopping experience”

But It’s no more just about luxury shopping: Philanthropy and real estate investment are also hot topics. The January 2016 issue will have “Philanthropy in America” as its main feature. “Many Chinese CEO’s residing in the U.S. are willing to create their own philanthropic foundations in America, as they used to do in China. We’ll publish stories to help them to understand how to create a charity organization with all the necessary partners: banks, wealth management advisors & attorneys” added Pierre Gervois.

Driving a vintage 1960 Cadillac on Road 66 is also part of a true luxury American experience. (You can also rent a brand new Cadillac SUV). The march 2016 issue will feature a “Luxury road trip to America” story. Ralph Lauren ripped Jeans, Louis Vuitton beaten up keepall bag, vintage Rolex, Vincent Peach leather bracelet, a motel with neon signs, this is America.

After the success of the September 2015 men’s fashion issue “The Gentleman Traveler”, The September 2016 issue will also feature a Men’s fashion special edition, with in depth stories about America’s best fashion designers. “Having a tailor made business suit made in USA makes a statement for Chinese global business executives” said Tyron Cutner, the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine Men’s Fashion Editor.

“Winter Holidays in the American West” will introduce snow experiences in the American West: Colorado, Nevada or Arizona are beautiful in winter time and very desirable destinations for Chinese frequent travelers to the U.S. who had already visited New York and Los Angeles multiple times and want to experience a truly authentic American Christmas time. A lot of opportunities for U.S. luxury retailers to showcase their products and services to their Chinese customers.

Request the 2016 Editorial Calendar & Media Kit of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine here.

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International retailers waiting for the US$264Billion Chinese spending by 2019

Young Chinese shoppers - China Elite Focus

Book your holiday now, before a wave of 174 million Chinese tourists snap up the best bargains.

Already the most prolific spenders globally, the number of Chinese outbound tourists is tipped to soar further as the millennial generation spreads its wings.

Here are the numbers: 174 million Chinese tourists are tipped to spend $264 billion by 2019 compared with the 109 million who spent $164 billion in 2014, according to a new analysis by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. To put that in perspective, there were just 10 million Chinese outbound tourists in 2000.

How much is $264 billion? It’s about the size of Finland’s economy and bigger than Greece’s.

“China-mania spread globally in the past few years, akin to when the Japanese started travelling some 30 years ago, when the world went into frenzy then, pandering to Japanese customers’ needs,” the analysts wrote. “In our view, this is going to be bigger and will last longer given China’s population of 1.3 billion vs Japan’s population of 127 million.”

Millennials, or 25- to 34- year olds, are expected to make up the bulk of Chinese tourists at 35% of the total, followed by 15- to 24- year olds accounting for around 27%.

“Chinese travelers now massively prefer to shop overseas. Buying a luxury product in Mainland China is seen as “Uncool” and shows that you can’t afford to travel to New York city, Paris or London to buy at the original brand ‘s flagship store” says Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the New York City based Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine.

Only about 5% of China’s 1.3 billion populace are thought to hold passports, meaning the potential for outbound tourism is vast.Gervois Rating Banner 01

The projected boom could be good news for the global economy. The Chinese are the world’s biggest consumers of luxury goods, with half of that spending done overseas. Chinese visitors to the U.S. have risen more than 10% since 2009, the fastest pace for a destination outside of Asia. Australia, France and Italy are also popular.

Asian markets stand to benefit, with the biggest uptick tipped for Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia, according to the research led by Billy Ng in Hong Kong.

Source: Chinese tourists Blog / Bloomberg / Bank of America

Chinese credit card China Union Pay plans aggressive expansion overseas to better serve Chinese travelers

China Union Pay

UnionPay International announced plans to expand its overseas presence Friday, with the company’s services already available in 148 countries and regions outside mainland China.
Beijinger Yin Nan said her experiences in the South Korea this week were no different from at home. Up to 80% of her spending, such as flight tickets, hotels and shopping, was paid through UnionPay.
“It’s very convenient because I don’t have to worry about exchanging a large amount of local currency,” she said.
“However, I do carry some cash for little souvenirs or street snacks,” she said.

The company already has a heavy presence in South Korea since entering the market in 2005, with more than 10 million UnionPay cards issued in cooperation with local banks.
“South Korea is one of the easiest markets in terms of using the UnionPay card,” the company said in an e-mail interview with Xinhua.

“Apart from Chinese users, an increasing number of people from countries such as Japan and Mongolia and China’s Hong Kong and Macao SARs are using UnionPay cards,” the company said.Gervois Rating Banner 01
In Hong Kong and Macao, almost all ATMs and businesses accept UnionPay cards. Nearly 20 million UnionPay cards have been issued in the two areas as well.
The Asia-Pacific region may be the market stronghold but UnionPay has also become a big international bankcard brand too. In Europe and North America, UnionPay covers most of the tour sites frequented by Chinese travelers.
“With respect to the global trend in the payment sector, we will continue to expand our coverage… meanwhile, we will also improve services so that more foreign nationals adopt our products,” the company said.

According to the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, a travel publication for China’s richest “Even Chinese billionaires use their China Union Pay card to buy million dollars worth of jewelry in Paris or New York”.

Chinese travelers made more than 110 million overseas trips 2014, compared to less than 9 million in 1998.

China Travel Retail’s event in Shanghai from the 24th – 25th July 2012

China Travel Retail (CTR), the most focused networking event for travel retail brands, concessionaires and retailers targeting Chinese travellers, unveils the lists of world-class speakers and companies that will be involved in its inaugural event taking place in Shanghai on 24th and 25th July, 2012.

Joining the Moodie Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie, who together with Deputy Publisher Dermot Davitt will moderate proceedings, will be a host of world renowned industry speakers and panelists.

“We are delighted to have so many well respected industry speakers and companies participating at CTR”, said Jeffrey O’Rourke, Chief Executive of Ink. “This world-class line up of speakers, the superb agenda and the number of Chinese airports and duty free operators already attending, is fast establishing CTR as a definitive date in the Travel Retail calendar. We are hoping that over the coming weeks we will be able to announce more high profile speakers, delegates and sponsors coming to shanghai in July to attend our event”.

The China Travel Retail event and exhibition, taking place at the prestigious Marriott City Centre in Shanghai, will showcase best practices both domestically inside China, at Chinese airports and airlines, at sea, as well as how companies are successfully selling to Chinese consumers travelling overseas.  The two-day schedule for this event will include a mix of keynote speeches and master classes.

“Affluent Chinese travellers are looking for a better quality of service during their duty free shopping experience, and a better selection of products. In particular, they are looking for limited edition watches, or rare premium spirits, and not only from well known brands, but from more exclusive brands”, said Pierre Gervois, Chief Executive Officer of China Elite Focus.

“We believe that there is a need for an event that does not just showcase existing best practise within Chinese travel retail, but also helps companies to network, develop relationships and establish a footprint in this ever increasingly influential market”, said Nick Tan, President of GIS Events. “At CTR we will be bringing together for the first time, the most important decision makers from the Airports, Airlines, Duty Free operators, brands and Concessionaires in china and looking to break into this market.”