Business / Industries

China's big-spending tourists pause at stores as yuan drops

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-08-12 06:53

"Overall it's likely to be negative in my view," said Nomura luxury goods analyst Christopher Walker, "(but) it's increasingly hard to monitor ... All the luxury companies are trying to manage their pricing and manage the gaps. This just throws another question mark into the pricing mix which makes it just difficult to manage a luxury business at this point."

Either way, the sums involved are huge and have been growing fast.

The World Tourism Organization says China was the biggest "outbound" tourism spending country in 2014, with $165 billion laid out, up 28 percent from 2013. As recently as 1995, the Chinese spend was just $3.7 billion.

Housing, tuition fees

The price of a Gucci handbag was not the only thing on Chinese minds after Tuesday's devaluation, according to a straw poll of Chinese tourists around the world.

Hong Kong realtors fretted over the impact on the market there, while students interviewed in Beijing and Sydney feared for the cost of their foreign schooling fees.

But for now, there was plenty of determination among them to enjoy their purchasing power while it lasts.

"You can buy more in Australia. For example, to buy Ugg boots it's 1,000 yuan in China, it's 200 yuan in Australia," said Kou Meng Nan, 20, a college student from Beijing on a 12-day shopping trip to Sydney.

It was business as usual, too, at Galeries Lafayette in central Paris, where visitors from China poured off buses and into the grand department store. Before Tuesday's dip, the yuan had strengthened 15 percent against the euro since the beginning of 2014.

"That should make sure that this devaluation doesn't have any significant consequences," said Catherine Oden, China director for Atout France, France's official tourism promotion arm. "It's the end of the season anyway for the Chinese."

For some, of course, it's just not about the price.

"It's really bad news for me," said Tommy Liu, 27, standing outside a Chanel store in Hong Kong waiting for his girlfriend.

"No matter if the currency is up or down, I'll buy anything for her to make her happy."

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