UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free
Hi Blog. Here’s something to kick the weekend off: A whiny article by the Asahi picking on Chinese tourist spending habits. It’s not that they don’t spend, oh no; it’s more that they don’t spend PROPERLY. They spend too much of their time SHOPPING! Heavens to Murgatroyd! I think Japan’s media in this economic climate should be happy that rich Chinese are coming here to spend at all (and not staying on to trouble Japanese society through illegal overstays); they’re already being sequestered in some places. But no, we’ll get the grumbles that they’re not getting out enough anyway. What would be the perfect tourist in Japanese media eyes, I wonder? What would be the perfect consumer, period? Dare anyone criticize the Japanese public for their underconsumption, then? Arudou Debito in Sapporo
China tourists stingy in some areas
BY ETSUSHI TSURU THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
2010/06/16 Courtesy of Peach
Japanese businesses and local governments that have gone all out to win over the throngs of Chinese tourists are finding that their guests can be a frugal bunch at times.
The Chinese tourists have shown a tendency to scrimp on accommodations and meals and bypass tourist attractions for the main purpose of their trips–buying electronic appliances and designer brand clothing and accessories.
Industry officials said if Japan wants to truly capitalize on the roughly 480,000 Chinese who visit Japan each year, it will have to do much more to convince the tourists that there is more to Japan than just shopping.
“Many of the points of interest, meals and souvenirs that Japanese are promoting are of little interest to Chinese,” said Ke Yue, president of public relations company Japan-China Communication Co.
Ke said Japan’s strategy should include nurturing human resources to specialize in the needs of Chinese tourists, whose numbers show no signs of slowing down.
A fierce price war has erupted over tours to Japan, with the price of a five-night, six-day packaged trip being offered for as little as 4,000 yuan (about 53,000 yen or $577) to 5,000 yuan.
According to an executive at a Chinese tourist agency, companies are eking out profits by cutting costs for meals and accommodations.
As a result, 90 percent of the packaged group tours are handled by Chinese, Hong Kong or Taiwanese businesses because few Japanese tourist companies would be able to generate a profit.
In Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, located at one end of the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line highway that spans Tokyo Bay, the number of Chinese who stayed overnight soared thirteenfold from 2,089 in 2005 to 26,162 in 2009.
The rise was attributed largely to the change in management at the Tokyo Bay Plaza Hotel in the city in 2006, when the current owner, a Japanese national originally from China, took over.
But the influx of tourists has not led to increased income for local businesses in the area.
According to Tokyo Bay Plaza Hotel staff, most Chinese simply use the hotel as a launch pad to travel across the bay and spend their money at stores in the Ginza and Akihabara districts of Tokyo.
The tourists’ shopping priorities are also reflected at the Taiyoro restaurant on the 47th floor of the Apa Hotel & Resort Tokyo Bay Makuhari in Chiba, which is usually packed with Chinese tourists on weekends.
“Ninety-five percent of our customers are group customers. Of them, 70 percent are Chinese,” said Akiharu Taiyoro, operator of the Taiyoro chain of restaurants. Taiyoro, a Shanghai native who became a naturalized Japanese in 2006, operates 10 restaurants in such tourist destinations as Tokyo and Osaka.
In 2009, more than 1.18 million people dined at Taiyoro’s buffet-style restaurants, which offer all-you-can-eat lunches for 1,500 yen, and dinners for 2,000 yen, plus free soft drinks, for two hours.
Tour groups accompanied by guides can receive a 30-percent discount.
Taiyoro said he visits China every other month to negotiate with travel agencies there.
“Chinese tourists come to Japan to shop, so they like to finish their meals quickly. The average tour group will spend about 45 minutes eating at our restaurant before a new group comes in. So it is a low-margin, high-turnover business, but it’s profitable,” he said.
In Fukuoka, where 66 cruise ships from China are scheduled to call port this year, city officials have estimated an economic windfall of 2.89 billion yen from the Chinese visitors.
But according to a travel agency official in the city, the cruise ships moor in Fukuoka for only about 10 hours, and most tourists are more interested in shopping than taking in the sights.
The central government has eased visa requirements for individual tourists and increased promotion campaigns to lure more Chinese tourists to Japan.
But experts say this may not be enough to spread the wealth.
“Japan must rush to create an environment that allows visitors to freely enjoy their visit,” said Du Guoqing, an associate professor of tourism at Rikkyo University.
Du, for example, pointed out that the inability to use Chinese driver’s licenses in Japan deprives the tourists of a chance to see much of the country.
14 comments on “Asahi has whiny article on how Chinese tourists don’t spend properly”
Apart from the opening paragraphs it sounded pretty reasonable to me. It didn’t seem to be whining about those “stingy Chinese” so much as reporting that the Japan tourist industry will need to adjust its business strategies if it wishes to cash in on Chinese tourism. Finding new legitimate ways to squeeze pennies out of customers is the cornerstone of capitalism after all…
They should be happy that they are getting tourists at all! Some business is better than no business.
Staying at the cheapest possible place and eating are what Chinese do in China too. I know lots of people who would stay in a dirty, musty hotel as opposed to the new, clean one across the street to save 10RMB (130¥) a night.
On the point of just taking trips to shop, isn’t that what most Japanese do? I went on a Japanese tour to Guam several years ago and every day the hotel organized busses to hit the K-mart, or the mall and the street around the hotel was filled with designer/luxury shops. On our way to the airport to leave the bus stopped at some giant duty-free luxury mall. All the Japanese on the bus rushed out swarming the shops [hyperbole deleted].
Seems sort of the pot calling the kettle black to me.
Agree with Kaoru, I don’t see any whining or complaining that the Chinese don’t spend money like they should but rather that Japanese need to understand the Chinese wants and needs and adapt to take advantage of their tourist dollars.
This article reminds me of a similar one on “stingy” Japanese tourists:
The pot calls the kettle black.
Japanese Tourists Stingy in Shopping
By Kwon Mee-yoo Staff Reporter
In Myeong-dong, a popular shopping district in central Seoul, many shops post signs in Japanese and hire Japanese-speaking clerks to attract tourists from the neighboring country.
So, are these shops enjoying a sales boom?
Joy and grief alternate among the shop owners, as most Japanese shop thriftily.
Japanese travelers seem to be everywhere in downtown Seoul these days, taking advantage of a weaker Korean won that makes goods here cheaper. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, more than 250,000 Japanese visited Korea from Dec. 1 to 21 in 2008, a nearly 50 percent increase from the previous year.
Miho Funada, 25, visited Korea on a three-day trip for shopping with one of her friends. She had already stopped off at shops such as Missha and Etude House, both local cosmetic brands, and bought Korean beauty products worth 140,000 won ($100), and was headed to the Face Shop, also a cosmetic brand. A friend held a guidebook of the district marked with low-priced makeup shops. “We came to shop because it’s cheap,” Funada said.
“Korean cosmetics are popular among Japanese women for their low price and high quality. There are similar clothes and shoes in Japan, but these Korean cosmetics are unique.” Funada said. “Still, the most important thing is being cheap.”
These Korean cosmetic brands have several shops in the district, including three Missha stores and four Etude Houses. Other brands such as It’s Skin, Skin Food and Innisfree have two stores each.
“At stores in Myeong-dong, about 40-50 percent of customers are Japanese. They mostly buy cosmetic items priced at 10,000 won,” said Kim Chang-soo, an employee at Etude House.
“Forever 21,” a popular fast-fashion brand, opened its first Korean store in Myeong-dong last October. Clothes there range from 3,500 won to 69,800 won in price and accessories cost 2,000-40,000 won. In November, Japanese visitors started coming to the low-priced store in crowds.
“Most of our customers are Japanese, especially in the morning,” Betty, the assistant manager of the shop, said, crediting her shop’s low prices and “freshness” with its popularity. “We sell the latest fashion items at affordable prices, so it’s easy for people to open their purses. The brand does not have branches in Japan and Japanese buyers think it’s new and fresh,” she added.
“Japanese are fastidious in buying clothes. They look around and try on a lot of items but buy only one or two cheap ones. Customers from Singapore and Hong Kong tend to buy much more,” said Park So-young, who works at an outlet near Ewha Womans University.
Grocery stores in Myeong-dong and Namdaemun Market have set up Japanese signs as well. At Dream Mart, a grocery store in central Seoul, pomegranate and omija teas, which cost around 4,000 won each, are the most popular product among Japanese shoppers.
The owner, Moon Kwang-youl, hired two Japanese-speaking salespeople to cater to them. “On weekends, hundreds of Japanese visit the store daily and buy foodstuff. Some buy Korean tea in bulk as gifts and we send them directly to Japan,” Moon said.
Glasses are another popular item. “Cheap eyeglasses frames with price tags of around 30,000 won are the most popular,” said Kang, an optician of Gana Eyewear.
Accommodation services have also prospered since last October. Kim Dong-joo, a manager of the Seoul Royal Hotel in Myeong-dong, said Japanese account for 70 percent of the guests and stay for 2.9 days on average. “The numbers of Japanese visitors to our hotel increased about 20 percent compared to last year,” Kim said. “However, they are frugal and do not dine at hotel restaurants or use room service, so we don’t have much extra revenue other than lodging charges.”
According to Kim, the rush and consequent economic effect of Japanese tourists is limited only to the Gangbuk district, or north of the Han River. “Japanese people shop, eat and stay mostly in Gangbuk. Only a few of them visit luxury shops in Apgujeong-dong in southern Seoul,” he noted.
Park Kyong-soon, a third generation Korean-Japanese who visits Korea two or three times per year, did not buy much during this visit. “Many of my friends have been coming here more recently due to the proximity and the yen, but Japan is also in an economic slump and they don’t buy luxury brands,” she said.
— My my, people do love to kvetch.
I have to agree with what Kaoru said. But I would just like to say, that don’t start bashing capitalism. There’s nothing fairer than capitalism.
— Note to exceptionalists: This blog entry will not get into a discussion of capitalism vs other systems. That’s not the point here, so FYI. Back to the discussion.
Fascinating to compare how Chinese and Japanese shop. Both groups are well known as big shoppers, but spend their money on different things. Chinese tend to stay away from brand cosmetics for example, because they can buy them cheaper in Hong Kong than in your average duty free. Chinese are also not shy about splashing out on luxury or status items, and if they can find them cheaper than in China they will buy up big. I seem to recall an article from a couple of years ago where Chinese were complaining that they were subject to limits on the number of items they could purchase at Louis Vuitton in Paris, because many were buying multiple items for friends / relatives back home.
— Best if we can have links provided to articles we cite. Thanks.
If the Chinese want to come here and shop only, boo for them. It’s a challenge for the local market to work out how better to part them from their cash.
As long as they don’t overstay their visas, who cares what they spend their money on?
KS sends the following link:
Retailers see chance to boost sales as Chinese visitors open wallets in Japan
(Mainichi Japan) May 27, 2010
A Chinese couple, left, who say they have a spending budget of about 4 million yen, are pictured during a visit to a department store in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward. (Mainichi)
“I guess our shopping budget is about 300,000 yuan (about 4 million yen),” said Huang Feng, a 27-year-old civil servant from China who was on a honeymoon visit to Japan.
Stopping by at the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo’s uptown Ginza district, Huang and his wife stocked up on luxury cosmetics. Since 2007, the store has employed staff who can speak Chinese, and it has seen a significant boost in sales of brand-name goods and luxury cosmetics among Chinese tourists. Its duty-free sales to foreign tourists peaked in April and officials said that Chinese accounted for about half of the sales.
A number of major electronics stores in Tokyo’s Akihabara and Shinjuku districts and in the Osaka district of Nipponbashi have set up counters catering specifically to Chinese tourists. It is not uncommon to see customers from China spending hundreds of thousands of yen on digital cameras, rice cookers and other appliances, as they buy goods for themselves as well as their relatives.
“On some days up to 90 percent of our duty-free sales come from Chinese,” said a representative of Bic Camera’s Yurakucho store in Tokyo.
Noting the buying power of such customers, stores in Tokyo’s Omotesando shopping district are also catching on. On May 20, an organization representing 217 retailers of bags, watches, jewelry and other brand-name products decided to make a concerted effort to lure Chinese tourists into the area. The number of outlets accepting China UnionPay cards — essential for large purchases as there are restrictions on taking foreign currency out of China — have greatly increased, and stores are working to attract more customers from China.
As a result of the global economic downturn, the number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2009 fell 19 percent compared with the previous year. But the number of Chinese visitors showed a slight increase, reaching 1.01 million.
The attraction of being able to purchase brand-name goods and the latest household appliances more cheaply than in China is said to play a part in luring Chinese visitors. Travel industry officials say that Chinese spend an average of 200,000 to 300,000 yen during their visits to Japan, bringing the annual market to between 200 billion and 300 billion yen a year.
Recently JTB has also been expanding its business to cater to Chinese travelers, and has set up a section specializing in medical tours that enable participants to undergo top-level medical examinations in Chinese.
On May 18, the government announced that it would greatly relax the conditions for granting visas to individual Chinese tourists from July. So far visas have been restricted to wealthy Chinese nationals. The move suggests that the government is also raising its hopes of increased spending among Chinese visitors in Japan.
Original Japanese story (as linked from Mainichi site):
景気の実相：／下 「買い物予算は４００万円」 弱い内需補う、中国人購買力
毎日新聞 2010年5月27日 東京朝刊
Hmmm…the article could be more properly titled:
“Chinese Tourists fail to live up to unrealistic Japanese expectations”.
It is a fact, Chinese love shopping… It is the main purpose of their trip in Japan but anywhere else in the world. Try to offer some cultural product to a Chinese Tour planner and he will just laugh at you. Cultural sightseeing takes time in gtheir short itinerary and brings no money. The hidden part of these shopping tours are the huge “commissions” to the pockets of the Chinese travel agents.
Wolf (I work in the travel trade)
Don’t a lot of international tourists scrimp on lodging? Tourists from Western countries are probably small numbers compared to Chinese and other Asian tourists but a lot of young people at least stay in youth hostels and gaijin houses…. and Japanese famlies may stay in the pricey places but they travel less times per year than families in most Western countries too. Hasn’t it occurred to anyone that EVERYONE would stay in hotels more often if Japanese hotels were more reasonable?
It’s not just regarding the Chinese, I think the economy needs to do LOTS of adjusting in general. So many industries don’t seem to realise that the bubble burst a LONG time ago and probably isn’t coming back any time soon.
Kimberly, Japan hotels ARE cheaper than in Europe or in US. Even in Asia, Singapore or Hong Hong hotel room nights for the same hotel category are more expensive…
— Okay, proof please, everyone.
I think it depends on where and what you’re comparing. Tokyo hotels are actually cheaper than London ones on a star to star comparison basis. Both cities do have cheaper business hotels. Sometimes also it pays bearing in mind that being able to access some Japanese package tours in Japan do include relatively lower prices for high class accomodation (and remember, often these places may include a meal plan of 2 meals per day as well). As to cheaper tour packages, they are available, but tend to be for short trips, which when you factor in the transporation costs may not be that cheap on a day to day basis compared with similar trips advertised in Europe.
Where Japan really falls down is on cheap flights (there aren’t any). Traveling in Europe, one can be spolied at times by the budget airlines, though recently with luggage charges they have gotten more expensive, but still they offer relative bargins compared to Japan for traveling equivalent distances.