What you need to know about where and how Chinese tourists spend their money

The spending habits of Chinese tourists abroad is the subject of an Outbound Chinese Tourism and Consumption Trends survey by Alipay.

Chinese Tourists’ mobile habits set expectations for mobile payment. As the study’s author’s state:

“Thanks to the widespread use of mobile payments across China, Chinese people are increasingly accustomed to living a ‘cashless life’. Whether dining out, shopping or using any kind of transportation, people actively choose mobile payment as the preferred method of payment. The advantages are also apparent when traveling abroad: mobile payment is quick and easy; there is no need to calculate change, no need to exchange foreign currencies. A majority of Chinese respondents (64%) expressed ‘convenience, speed, and familiarity’ as the primary reason for choosing mobile payment while traveling overseas.”

The survey, conducted by Nielsen, shows that 65% of Chinese tourists paid for travel expenses via mobile payment during their most recent trip, compared to 11% only of non-Chinese counterparts; and 77% of Chinese tourists spent more via mobile payments than they had on previous trips taken over the past two years.

Proportionally, mobile payments transacted by Chinese travelers at overseas destinations are catching up with cash payments, though bank cards still have the lead. Chinese travelers used cash to pay for 30% of transactions, used bank cards for 42% of transactions, and mobile payments for 28% of transactions. This differs dramatically from the transactional habits of non-Chinese tourists which break down into 44% cash, 52% bank card, and 5% mobile payment.

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The largest mobile payment spend category is shopping. 63% of Chinese consumers surveyed said they have used mobile payments for shopping during their trip and 76% said that they hoped to do so during overseas travel in the future. Dining is a close second with 62% having already use mobile payments to pay for their meals. Tourist attractions are the third largest spend category with 58% of Chinese tourists saying they have used their mobiles to pay for those.

Importantly, Chinese consumers also expect to find that these venues accept mobile payments. 76% said they hope to find retail facilities that accept mobile payment, 46% said they expect to find mobile payments accepted at dining locations and 40% said they hope accommodations will accept mobile payments.         

Merchant adoption is naturally helping to encourage the practice. 93% of Chinese tourists surveyed said they would consider using mobile payments overseas iff more merchants accepted them; 91% also said that they would spend and shop more if Chinese mobile payment brands were accepted.The average total annual spending of outbound Chinese tourists is rising. It is estimated to reach $5,715 in 2018 (a 3% increase over 2017).

On-location spending at the travel destination averages $3,064 per person, excluding tour group costs and transportation costs. But some regions encourage greater spending than others. Chinese Tourists are most likely to spend more while visiting the United States ($4,462 average per person), followed by Europe ($3,754 average per person), and Australia ($3,541 average per person).

A quarter of Chinese tourists’ total travel expenses go to shopping; 19% to accommodation and 16% to dining.

There’s a bit of good news for airlines and airports in this study. 61% of outbound Chinese tourists will spend their shopping budget at Duty-Free Shops—the top retail category—which makes accommodating mobile payments critical.

Some have already go the message. Finavia, which manages Helsinki Airport, introduced Alipay at a number of its concessionaires at the end of 2016 and also launched Alipay tax refunds through Global Blue last year.    

Helsinki Airport commercial director Elena Stenholm from Finavia says:

“We work in close cooperation with our commercial partners to develop the customer experience. AliPay has been received very well, and we encourage businesses to enable it. If the biggest commercial operators at the airport come along, the amount of outlets accepting AliPay will increase tenfold at once.”   

Finnair also introduced Alipay payments for inflight purchases like duty-free items onboard its Helsinki-Shanghai route last year, and at the Finnair lounge in the non-Schengen area of Helsinki Airport.

Related reading: Why more business travelers are leaving cash behind

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Marisa Garcia

About the Writer :: Marisa Garcia

Marisa Garcia is the tnooz aviation analyst. She has covered travel technology, design, branding, and strategy for leading publications, including Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, APEX Magazine, AirlineTrends, and Travel+Leisure. She also shares industry insights on her site Flight Chic. Fly with her on Twitter.



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