You've seen them around, and — if you're like a certain editor here — you may have even taken a ride on one. But, you might be seeing even fewer tour buses filled with Chinese shoppers making stops up and down Madison Avenue, the Champs-Élysées, and Oxford Street. It seems that the prepackaged experience of shuttled shopping isn't as appealing anymore to the affluent Chinese tourists, who seem to prefer making the excursions alone. Good news for anyone who's found themselves stuck behind 30 people waiting to check out at Barneys. Bad news for retailers, who have gotten used to the steady cash flow that the bussed shopping system delivers.
Why the big fuss? An independent Chinese tourist, on average, spends $1,530, 20% more than a Chinese traveler on a group tour, who already forks over $1,275 on shopping abroad. In contrast, the average American spends $1,180 total on vacations (and that includes travel and lodging costs). In 2012, 83 million Chinese tourists shelled out $102 billion for merchandise, so it's no wonder that retailers are looking to get a piece of the pie.
Yet, why so much spending? A large percentage of Chinese tourists are wealthy and also skew younger. Second, securing a travel visa is much more difficult in China than it is here in the States, which means that the opportunities for frequent return trips abroad are far fewer. And, third, domestic Chinese taxes will jack up the prices of imported luxury items, which makes shopping abroad (even with airfare and associated expenses) so worth it. For example, according to WWD, one Chinese tourist bought a Versace handbag for $1,190 in Paris that she would have had to pay $3,400 for in China.
Click through to read more about why travelers are abandoning the bus-guided tours (and check out a few pretty gnarly stories about the tactics some evil-sounding tour leaders use to increase spending). (WWD)