Times certainly are changing. As hundreds of millions Chinese travel for family reunion, increasing number are taking the time to go abroad and indulge themselves.
Chinese tourists have gone on shopping sprees to Japan and then Taiwan in recent years, since US visa is notoriously difficult to obtain (Chinese applicants are denial-based.) Now, it seems US is relaxing tourist visa rule to draw Chinese shoppers to America:
“Bloodbath” At Macy’s As Chinese Tourists Take Over Vegas Department Store
By Lou Shushan, World Journal North America, 2/6/2011
Las Vegas Macy’s meets waves of Chinese customers.
About 800 Chinese tourists joined “Vegas Chinese New Year, 1000 Strong” event organized by Southern California tour companies. The group took over Macy’s flagship store on the strip last night and spent two hours shopping. Chinese tourists can be seen all over Macy’s swiping credit cards.
Mrs. Hong from Guangzhou decided to “let loose”, purchasing over $1700 worth of skin care products from Estee Lauder, Lancôme, Dior, along with bags of free sample the sales people were happy to oblige. Mrs. Hong says, American brands sell for double the price in China, while French products are also much cheaper than in China. She took the opportunity to stock up for herself as well as buying for friends and coworkers.
As to clothing, Mrs. Hong says she doesn’t plan to buy at Macy’s, opting to wait for trip to the outlet stores. She heard from friends that brands like CK, Levi’s are much cheaper there. After currency exchange, a pair of CK jeans are 1/3 the price.
Mr. and Mrs. Hou are on their honeymoon. Mrs. Hou favors Origins skin care product and Bulgari perfume, spent about $500. Mr. Hou is relegated to holding the purse while Mrs. Hou shopped. He jokes that as long as his wife is happy with the Macy’s “detour”, he’s happy too.
The Shi’s have already done fair amount of shopping in Hawaii, spending over $7000. Mrs. Shi says, she had to buy three more luggage to hold the purses, shoes, makeup she’s purchased. She ended up with only a $700 watch at Macy’s. When asked how much more she plans to spend rest of the trip, Mrs. Shi says she does not have a limit in mind.
But Mrs. Yu from Beijing only spent $900 on watch and makeup. She says perhaps it’s hard to catch her eyes because most things can be had in China these days.
Macy’s did not give a figure for tonight’s purchases, but manager Tracy Anderson says many Chinese tourists are here for Chinese New Year. She estimates there have been 4000-5000 Chinese shoppers this week.
What I observed with these Chinese buying sprees:
1. High tariffs. Chinese have a choice to buy Chinese-made goods or goods imported to China in China. Foreign goods tend to have better quality but are priced substantially higher. That’s why Chinese tourists buy a lot of brand name consumer products in US. It has happened at least 10 years that I can recall. US tourist guides always take them to shops tailored to the taste/demand.
2. Yuan is at the highest exchange rate today. It amplifies #1. Since HKD is still pegged with USD, many Chinese tourists flock to Hong Kong for bargains. It is used to be the other way round.
3. Dirty money. When they’re in foreign land, they ‘laundry’ the money. Not too many local folks buy a $10,000 diamond ring in cash. Foreign real estate is the target for this money. Watch many Hong Kong residential high rises at night and you will notice a lot of them are empty while the building is fully sold.
I saw an article about Chinese going to the UK and doing shopping they termed it the Peking Pound so i guess this could be called the Peking dollar
About US visas, I was surprised to learn that rejection rates for mainland Chinese of US B1/2 visas is only 13% now. How times have changed.