Australia is losing an important source of export revenue as its mining boom has waned in the face of China’s economic slowdown. Now, in an effort to spur growth, the country is turning its attention to deep-pocketed Chinese tourists looking to spend big bucks on luxurious goods.
Several international luxurious brands including Hermes and Tiffany are set to make their debut at the Pacific Fair Shopping center on the Gold Coast on Thursday this week, part of a plan to appeal to a growing number of Chinese tourists visiting the region, according to the Australian.
The tourist area, in Australia’s northern state of Queensland, has become a major target for China’s tourism boom with some of the country’s biggest property developers, including Dalian Wanda rushing to the region to accommodate mainlander’s heading south for sun, fun and shopping.
Over 1 Million Chinese Visitors Head to Gold Coast Beaches
“In the past three years, Chinese visitors to the Gold Coast increased by 54 per cent to 242,000 in 2015.” Miles Roper, head of Gold Coast Tourism, was quoted by the newspaper as saying. That is in tandem with an upward trend in the number of Chinese visitors to Australia. More than 1 million Chinese visited the country last year, more than doubled over the past five years, Australian press reported, citing government data.
They have also come with deep pockets. Chinese tourists spent a record $ 8.3 billion in Australia last year, more than the combined $ 7.2 billion spent by British and Americans, official data shows. Tourism accounted for nearly 4 percent of Australia’s gross domestic product.
Because foreign brands sold in China usually are priced higher due to import taxes, shopping is a big part of an overseas trip for many Chinese.
“Buy, buy buy, nonstop, the guidebook for the shopping tribes” reads a slogan under the Gold Coast section of Mafengwo, a popular Chinese travel website that congregates user-generated travel blogs. “The shopping centers will have all the big brands. Whatever you want to buy, you find it here,” the site reassures mainlanders planning their trips down under.
And Chinese in particular, seem to have a soft spot for luxury marques. Mainland visitors are spending three times the amount on luxury retail of any other tourism demographic, Bryan Hines, head of investment house AMP Capital, told the Australian.
Pacific Fair, which first opened in 1977, is currently undergoing a $670 million redevelopment as it tries to rebrand itself as an upscale shopping mall. On completion in mid-2016, the complex will boast 420 shops featuring international brands including Chanel, Gucci, Prada, and Rolex.
Wanda Developing $1.57 Bil Gold Coast Resort
Chinese tourists are not the only big spenders on the Gold Coast. In a hope to capitalise on the booming tourism, Dalian Wanda Group — the property developer belonging to billionaire Wang Jianlin, is building a $1.57 billion tourism destination in the region.
Wanda’s Jewel resort will include hotels, condos and sport facilities, and the property conglomerate also announced plans last year to build a theme park there. Another Chinese developer has unveiled plans for a 285-metre condo tower along the beach, which when complete will be the Gold Coast’s tallest structure.
These projects are targeting Chinese consumers like Meng Yang. Mr. Meng, a 26-year-old Chinese student in Sydney pursuing a Master’s degree in translation, who said he was drawn by the beaches and sunshine on the Gold Coast.
He is now planning a trip to the Gold Coast this June during the school break.
“ I will buy some UGG products, Swisse health products.” Mr. Meng said. “ The biggest draw of shopping overseas is the price advantage. The same products in China will be taxed a lot, plus, you don’t have to worry about buying fake products here.”
Some Australian analysts have predicted more infrastructure would be needed to accommodate growing numbers of Chinese tourists. James Laurenceson, a professor of the Australian Chinese relations Institute told Australian broadcaster ABC last year: “I understand that the Gold Coast already has a lot of hotels and tourists attractions but we need even more.”
“So the Chinese tourists are coming. Chinese investors, property investors see that and they see it as a good area to go into so they start ploughing their dollars into building high-rises,” he said.