Photo: Jing Daily
When it comes to luxury spending at London’s Heathrow Airport, Chinese tourists are clearly punching above their weight.As they have at other major airports around the globe, Chinese tourists and business travellers have become a regular sight at Heathrow luxury duty-free shops, stocking up on items that — in mainland China — regularly include a more than 40 per cent markup.
According to the Hurun Report, Chinese travellers became the world’s biggest duty-free shoppers back in 2011, with Global Blue noting that the Chinese spent more than twice as much as Russians, US and Japanese tax-free shoppers in 2010.
Despite making up less than one per cent of the total travellers who pass through Heathrow, mainland Chinese currently account for around 25 per cent of overall luxury spending at the airport, a statistic that has given retailers there even greater impetus to target this big-spending demographic in the run-up to Chinese New Year. In addition to printing Chinese-language maps of the airport’s retailers, Heathrow is also following the lead of Dubai duty-free retailersin beefing up its Mandarin-speaking service staff.
Additionally, with Chinese New Year just around the corner, this week Heathrow is hosting a number of activities aimed at Chinese tourists, among them traditional Chinese music performances, dragon dancing, food samplings, and paper-cutting classes. As Heathrow retail director Muriel Zingraff put it, “We are passionate about creating memorable experiences and celebrating worldwide events that are important to our passengers. While Chinese passengers represent a relatively small proportion of our total passenger volume, these customers are extremely important to us and have very definite ideas about their luxury brand experience which we are delighted to provide at Heathrow.”
With many mainland Chinese duty-free shoppers at Heathrow passing in transit, rather than spending time in London (owing, often, to visa difficulties), British heritage brands like Burberry and Mulberry are among the most popular purchases at the airport, along with luxury watches, and multi-brand retailers prominently display the fact that they accept UnionPay.
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