Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian, who doesn’t exactly struggle to afford a plane ticket, can now likely fly free, in first class, with his whole family, anywhere in the world, for the rest of his life.
All because he bought a painting. Liu was the winning bidder for Amedeo Modigliani’s Reclining Nude at a Christie’s auction this month — offering US$170.4 million — and when the sale closes he’ll be putting it on his American Express card.
Liu, a high-profile collector of Chinese antiquities and art, has used his AmEx in the past when he’s won art auctions. He put a US$36 million tea cup from the Ming Dynasty on his AmEx last year, according to reports, and put other artifacts on his card this year. He and his wife said they plan on using their American Express card to pay for the Modigliani, according to news reports after the sale.
American Express will not confirm Liu Yiqian’s Modigliani purchase, or say if it would be the biggest ever on their cards, citing privacy reasons. But it can be done.
“In theory, it’s possible to put a (US$170 million purchase) on an American Express card,” said American Express spokeswoman Elizabeth Crosta. “It is based on our relationship with that individual card member and these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, based on our knowledge of their spending patterns.”
Liu has an American Express Centurion Card, also known as the AmEx “black card,” an invitation-only card that is given only to AmEx’s biggest spending clients. The card has no official credit limit — and it earns points, just like most of the cards non-billionaires carry around.
Each AmEx card issued in each country accrues points differently. But using a baseline of one point per dollar, what American Express uses for its US Platinum and Centurion Cards, Liu will earn 170,400,000 Membership Reward points for his painting purchase, which doesn’t include tax or the fees Christie’s charges. He has likely earned tens of millions of points for his earlier fine art buys, like the expensive tea cup.
“In 2015, the readers of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club have spent $520M in expenses overseas, and we know many of them have AmEx Centurion cards, but we can’t disclose their names” said Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, a Chinese language only digital ultra-luxury magazine.
Liu and his wife, in an interview with the New York Times, said they plan to use the points to allow their family to travel for the rest of their lives.
That shouldn’t be a problem, according to Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of the travel rewards site ThePointsGuy.com.
“He’s probably reached that goal with that single painting,” Honig says.
Honig estimates that if Liu converted his Membership Rewards points into one of a number of airline frequent flier programs, he and his family could travel anywhere, in style. He could fly 3,000 times between the US and Europe in the ultra-deluxe first class suites offered by Singapore Airlines (estimated cost: US$17,800 round trip), if he converted points to Singapore’s program. Even if Liu wanted to use his AmEx points to pay for flights, a less efficient use of them, he could still redeem those points for hundreds of first class flights anywhere in the world.
Source: Kelvin Chan / AP. ALL rights reserved
More content about luxury travel to the United States in 2016 in the prestigious Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine
The Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, the Chinese language publication read by China’s Elite global travelers has disclosed its much anticipated 2016 Editorial calendar yesterday. And clearly, Affluent Chinese travelers love the United States! According to Pierre Gervois, the New York City based Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of this publication “The new generation of Chinese business travelers have clearly chosen the United States as their strategic country for their business browth. We have seen in the past two years a very strong interest from Chinese corporations – and wealthy Chinese invividuals- to invest in the United States. The more they come to the U.S. for business, the more they tend to come back with their family for a U.S. luxury leisure experience”
It’s no more just about luxury shopping: Philanthropy and real estate investment are also hot topics. The January 2016 issue will have “Philanthropy in America” as its main feature. “Many Chinese CEO’s residing in the U.S. are willing to create their own philanthropic foundations in America, as they used to do in China. We’ll publish stories to help them to understand how to create a charity organization with all the necessary partners: banks, wealth management advisors & attorneys” added Pierre Gervois.
Driving a vintage 1960 Cadillac on Road 66 is also part of a true luxury American experience. (You can also rent a brand new Cadillac SUV). The march 2016 issue will feature a “Luxury road trip to America” story. Ralph Lauren ripped Jeans, Louis Vuitton beaten up keepall bag, vintage Rolex, Room 101 skull necklace, a motel with neon signs, this is America.
After the success of the September 2015 men’s fashion issue “The Gentleman Traveler”, The September 2016 issue will also feature a Men’s fashion special edition, with in depth stories about America’s best fashion designers. “Having a tailor made business suit made in USA makes a statement for Chinese global business executives” said Tyron Cutner, the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine Men’s Fashion Editor.
Real Estate is probably the hottest topic for Chinese travelers. They invested $22Billion in real estate last year (including the $2Billion Waldorf Astoria building and it’s growing fast. Very fast. The november 2016 issue will feature the most expensive houses and apartments in the United States ($15M+), as well as profiles of New York City best real estate attorneys and U.S. interior architects.
“Winter Holidays in the American West” will introduce snow experiences in the American West: Colorado, Nevada or Arizona are beautiful in winter time and very desirable destinations for Chinese frequent travelers to the U.S. who had already visited New York and Los Angeles multiple times and want to experience a truly authentic American Christmas time.
Request the 2016 Editorial Calendar & Media Kit of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine here.
We have all seen these cheezy advertising campaigns made by department stores or western brands trying to attract Chinese tourists in the last years: Be assured that affluent Chinese tourists were also smiling… But it is going to change. Exit the low quality shopping publications targeted to Chinese tourists that ended in the hotel rooms trash bins. U.S. and European Luxury brands and high end retailers start now to advertise seriously with affluent Chinese tourists.
Although luxury sales in mainland China have still remained in slowdown mode in 2015, and Hong Kong has recorded a significant slump as well, Chinese spending remains a potent force in the global luxury industry, propping up growth rates in developed markets worldwide.
This week, Hermès reported a 22 percent increase in global sales in the second quarter, with sales in Japan leaping 33 percent—a figure attributed in large part to an influx of big-spending Chinese tourists attracted by a weaker yen and easier travel. On a global scale, Chinese travelers are spending lavishly: a recent Global Blue report found that Chinese tourist spending jumped 87.8 percent in June, while spending on leather goods in Europe grew by an even more staggering 93.7 percent. Year-to-date spending growth sits at a whopping 110 percent.
These numbers contrast sharply with the situation in mainland China and Hong Kong, one that is particularly striking in formerly triumphant Hong Kong. Last week, Burberry reported a “double-digit percentage decline” there for the three months ending in June, while sales of Swiss watches in the former British colony were down 21.2 percent in June, despite 3.3 percent growth worldwide.
These numbers further support the trend that growth is following Chinese tourists abroad, and brands need to keep up with their changing location preferences for travel—engaging outbound shoppers before they leave China and when they arrive overseas. Recent stats also illustrate the ever-shifting tides of Chinese travel patterns. Whereas Japan was, just a few years ago, faced with a Chinese tourist slump (caused in no small part by Sino-Japanese political tensions), the country is seeing a wave of Chinese arrivals and spending, owing to cooling attitudes toward Hong Kong and South Korea’s currency fluctuations and MERS outbreak.
Amid these rapid and unpredictable changes, what is clear is that brands need to have plans in place to quickly jump on opportunities, and ensure they’re able to reach and influence the Chinese outbound consumer wherever he or she happens to be in the world.
“Luxury retailers like Bloomingdale’s have well understood the importance of targeting affluent Chinese tourists”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus and Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, a high end publication in Chinese language for High Net Worth Chinese global travelers. “Bloomindale’s and the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine have launched a very creative marketing and PR campaign this spring showing actual Chinese customers and what it feels like to shop at the iconic Bloomingdale’s store in NYC.” Gervois added. This campaign has generated a considerable attention on Chinese social media and is the first ever campaign focused on the Chinese customer and the overall shopping experience in a U.S. luxury retailer. An example to follow for the industry.
Source: Jing Daily / The New Chinese Tourist / Chinese Tourists Blog
In January 2015, President Obama announced a new plan to further open the American door to the Chinese and predicted that this new visa agreement could inject billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. “Under the current arrangement, visas between our two countries last for only one year. Under the new arrangement, student and exchange visas will be extended to five years; business and tourist visas will be extended to ten years,” said President Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.
Prior to this agreement, Chinese citizens had to renew their American business, tourist, and student visas annually. This visa regulation for travel from China to the U.S. was “one of the biggest stumbling blocks” for Chinese buyers of U.S. real estate, said Simon Henry, co-chief executive of www. juwai.com, China’s largest international real estate website. According to the White House, 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited the U.S. in 2013, generating $21.1 billion to the U.S. economy, and with this new visa law, up to 7.3 million Chinese visitors are projected to visit America in 2021, contributing roughly $85 billion per year to the U.S. economy, predicts U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
But what impact will this new visa law have on the real estate market here in Silicon Valley? We predict the local real estate market will receive a further boost as a result of the new U.S./China visa agreement. The new business and tourist visas will encourage more Chinese to travel to the U.S. and stay for longer periods of time. Likewise, with the extension of student visas, more Chinese parents will consider sending their children to U.S. schools. For these Chinese, having a permanent place to live while working or studying will be important.
For years, many affluent Chinese looked to U.S. real estate due to its stability and diversification. The new visa agreement will encourage those on the fence to consider taking the plunge and investing in U.S. properties. Not only will it be easier for them to come to the U.S., but it will also be easier for their friends and family to make frequent visits. Given our thriving local economy, appreciating real estate market, excellent schools, and great weather, Silicon Valley properties will be serious considerations for these folks. Moreover, Silicon Valley properties are considered reasonable compared to those in Shanghai or Beijing. “International buyers…are often surprised at how reasonable our prices appear,” says Ken DeLeon, founder of DeLeon Realty.
While the new visa agreement will likely contribute greater investment into the U.S. market, China’s strict currency regulations remain in effect, and we have seen enhanced enforcement by the Chinese central government over the past six months. These regulations prevent large amounts of currency from moving out of China. For example, Chinese nationals are allowed to transfer the equivalent of U.S. $50,000 per year into a foreign bank account. Given the hot, all-cash, non-contingent real estate market in Silicon Valley, buyers from China looking to purchase properties in this area should plan ahead and care should be given to ensure compliance with all U.S. and foreign laws. Additionally, these buyers should be prepared to provide proof to sellers that the funds are available. Along the same vein, sellers and agents should request for proof of funds with the offer letter to ensure that the buyers have the ability to close on time. Furthermore, when verifying funds, listing agents must understand the significant differences between the rules that apply to mainland China and to Hong Kong, which is classified separately as a special administrative region.
“California Realtors must also be aware that most of Mainland Chinese investors interested to buy U.S. properties over $5M will use funds coming from Caribbean banks or Switzerland banks, to avoid the Chinese regulations on currency control”, said Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus Magazines LLC, the publishing company of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine, a publication for the wealthy Chinese.
The market for Chinese investors in the U.S. is therefore much bigger than “official” forecasts. It’s time for Realtors to be proactive with Chinese buyers and increase their presence in Chinese media.
1. Kenneth Rapoza, “Obama’s New Visa Law Seen Helping Chinese Buy U.S. Real Estate,” http://www.forbes.com, November 14, 2014.
2. E. Scott Reckard, Andrew Khouri, Hugo Martin, “New Visa Rules Expected To Boost U.S.-China Tourism, Investment,” http://www.latimes. com, November 13, 2014.
3. Ken DeLeon, “Worldwide Real Estate Impact On Silicon Valley,” DeLeon Insight, September 2014.
4. Pierre Gervois, “How U.S. Retail, Travel, and Hospitality Industries Can Attract Affluent Chinese Tourists” , June 2012, China Elite Focus Editions. ASIN: B008L98Q3U
New York City hopes to reach 67 million annual visitors by 2021, and a big part of the plan is attracting big spenders from places like China and Brazil.
Of that 67 million goal, New York expects 16 million will come from international markets, and 51 million stateside. Based on city figures, 965,000 tourists came from Brazil, and 809,000 from China last year, which ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in international tourism to the city.
“China’s been growing a little faster in percentage from a rate-of-growth perspective, so China’s been a huge growth market for us,” said Christopher Heywood, spokesman for NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism bureau. “Brazil in the last few years has also been [growing], and it still will grow this year, but our big focus is on China.”
An informal survey by China Daily of major US tourist cities finds that the Chinese and Brazilians are substantially increasing their visits.
New York expects 1 million visitors from China by the end of 2018, Heywood said.
Only a few years ago, Brazil and China were not ranked in the top three international markets for New York, but have overtaken European markets such as France, Germany, and Italy.
“One thing about Brazil and Chinese is they don’t mind coming in the winter months, so for Lunar New Year, a lot of our Chinese visitors come during that period,” Heywood said. “The Brazil market, they don’t mind the novelty of being in the snow and being in the cold, so they don’t mind coming in those winter weather months, which is exactly the time of year we want to fill the gap and create more demand during the first quarter,” Heywood said.
Las Vegas is seeing a steady increase of travelers from the two countries, which along with Australia, have been major growth markets for the gambling capital, despite not having direct flights to any of the three countries.
“Our market share and growth has been very good, and our growth in Las Vegas over the last three years has been slightly higher than the growth to the US from China, so we feel very comfortable about that,” said Rafael Villanueva, senior director of international sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“We realize that we’re not going to go out there and get gobs and millions immediately, so we want to do it correctly,” he said. “As the second-tier cities in China start opening up, that’s going to be our volume market.”
“Chinese businessmen like Vegas to close business deals with their American business partners” noted Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine. ” we have seen a trend since the beginning of 2015, where Chinese Executives came to New York City for business, and organized a two days trip to Vegas, inviting their U.S. counterparts -sometimes in private jets-, in order to close their business deal and have good time”, Gervois added.
Those are the visitors who are going to the US to experience what Villanueva called the “sampler plate”. He said “they came and visited 10 cities in the two to three weeks they were here, and now they’re coming to the US to spend a little more time in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas”.
Las Vegas welcomed 300,000 visitors from China in 2013, up from 263,000 in 2012, and 187,000 from Brazil in 2013, up from 161,000.
The Chinese make up a much smaller portion of Miami’s visitors, but there is growth. The city doesn’t have specific data on the number of Chinese tourists, only air studies completed by the city’s airport air service consultant, and it estimates that the Miami market generated 55,000 Chinese passengers in 2014.
Source: China Daily USA / Amy He
“As Chinese entrepreneurs are becoming more and more international, they are more attentive to their personal style while in business meetings or in corporate events” said Pierre Gervois, Publisher and Editor-In-Chief.
The newly appointed Men’s Fashion Editor, Tyron Cutner, will be in charge of this new editorial feature. An expert in men’s fashion, Tyron Cutner is a well known fashion adviser in New York City and will bring his expertise and style to the publication.
“I feel proud to be part of the prestigious Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine. Every month, we’ll share with our Chinese readers the latest trends in Men’s fashion and accessories, as well as the basics that every international gentleman must have in his suitcase when traveling”, said Tyron Cutner.
Every month, starting in September 2015, the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine will feature a section providing fashion advice for the modern, style conscious, Chinese businessman. Wether he’s attending a negotiation meeting in New York City, at a Charity ball in London, or attending a gala dinner in Paris.
According to a survey by China Elite Focus, 74% of Chinese male entrepreneurs and top executives aged 30 to 45 agree that paying attention to their personal style has a positive impact in conducting business. And a staggering 81% think that they receive a “Disappointing” or “Very disappointing” welcome when shopping in the United States.
“It’s also important that fashion brands realize that they need to substantially improve the way they interact with affluent Chinese customers in the United States. We hope that this new editorial content will encourage U.S. retailers to implement long awaited changes in the customer service towards Chinese travelers”, Pierre Gervois added.
The Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine is a China Elite Focus Magazines LLC publication withg offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York City.