Business / Christmas business

Chinese tourists flock to Europe, US for holiday

By Wang Wen (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-21 11:31

Increasing numbers of Chinese tourists are choosing to travel abroad for Christmas, leading to a boom in business for travel agencies, despite the Christian festival not being a public holiday in China.

All outbound group trips organized by China International Travel Service Ltd, or CITS, sold out a month before Christmas Day, the tourism agency said.

Shopping in Europe and the United States is becoming increasingly popular among Chinese tourists, especially because many stores offer discounts ahead of Christmas Day.

"The number of our customers joining groups to go shopping in Europe and the US increased by 20 percent this Christmas compared with 2011," said Li Meng, deputy director of the outbound department of CITS.

Western countries are beginning to rival Hong Kong and Macao, which are still the top destinations for Chinese mainland residents to go shopping, he said.

According to the British tourism authority, the number of Chinese visitors to the United Kingdom reached a record 150,000 in 2011. The visitors also spent a record 240 million pounds ($390 million).

With more foreign airlines operating flights between China and Western countries, ticket prices are dropping, Li said.

With the lower exchange rate and relaxed visa restrictions, white-collar Chinese workers are increasingly opting to visit Western countries over Christmas.

Luxury brands based in Europe and fashion brands in the US are a lure for Chinese consumers.

"Chinese consumers can buy luxury items in the brands' home country at a lower price than in Hong Kong or Macao," Li said.

Because the shops in Western countries will close for Christmas Day, the shopping groups usually depart one week before Christmas, he added.

After Christmas Day, Western stores offer even greater discounts than the day before, Li said, so the tourist groups stay for several days.


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