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New York City luxury retailers are waiting for more wealthy Chinese shoppers

Over five days in January, a group of visitors to New York was treated to a private concert with the pianist Lang Lang at the Montblanc store, cocktails and a fashion show attended by the designers Oscar de la Renta and Diane Von Furstenberg, and a tour of Estée Lauder’s original office. They were not celebrities. They were not government officials. They were Chinese tourists with a lot of money.
Though luxury brands started opening stores in Beijing and Shanghai years ago, Chinese shoppers still spend more on luxury products abroad than they do at home, according to the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. Price is the major reason: Because of China’s taxes, luxury products are about a third cheaper in the United States and elsewhere.
European luxury stores have been catering to Chinese tourists for years. Now high-end retailers in the United States are pulling out their Mandarin phrase books and trying to convince Chinese visitors that Americans can do luxury, too.
“What started as a trickle has now become a flow,” said the vice president of the antiques store Macklowe Gallery, Ben Macklowe, who recently sold a Tiffany lamp that cost in the low six figures to a Shanghai visitor. “There’s been prosperity across so much of Asia that you’re starting to see it much more in the profile of the tourist on Madison Avenue.”
A record number of Chinese visited the United States last year — nearly 1.1 million — and the country accounts for one of the top-growing tourist groups here, according to the Commerce Department. The number of visitors is expected to almost double by 2014, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Chinese visitors spend about $6,000 each on every visit here, versus the $4,000 that visitors from other countries spend on average, the association says, and their top activity is shopping.
Although some tourists spend money on Disney trinkets and at the outlet malls they have traditionally frequented, luxury brand purchases are surging in part because American stores carry a broader range of products than their counterparts in China, said Julia Zhu, consulting director for Frost & Sullivan.
Tiffany, which made almost a quarter of its United States revenue last year from foreign tourists, has added Mandarin-speaking sales staff to its major stores, as has Burberry, where more than half of sales at its flagship stores are to tourists. Representatives from Tourneau’s Manhattan office recently accompanied New York City officials on a visit to China to encourage more tourism in the city.
The very popular Chinese social media network “Niuyue Mag” (纽约志), used by the young and affluent Chinese tourists preparing their trip to New York City had also a role in promoting the Big Apple as a major luxury shopping destination. According to Sandra Ming, analyst at China Elite Focus, “the impact of Niuyue Mag has been tremendous as it’s for now the only one media available in China exclusively about the planning of a shopping trip in New York City”
At its United States stores, Montblanc sells Year of the Dragon pens and has staff members who speak Mandarin and Cantonese. It is also printing Chinese-language brochures about its products and selling wallets sized for Chinese currency.
Despite having more than 100 stores in China, Montblanc is going after Chinese shoppers on vacation abroad. “Yes, we are in the major cities, but when you travel, you’re in the mood to enjoy and experience the moment,” said Jan-Patrick Schmitz, chief executive of Montblanc North America. “We certainly will do more and more marketing toward them.”
Retailers in the United States lag behind other countries. Part of that is because of visa issues; it is easier for Chinese residents to get visas to Europe. High-end American retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s are urging the government to speed up the process here. President Obama said in January that he planned to increase visa-processing capacity from emerging markets like China and Brazil by 40 percent this year.
The American stores also have to overcome an idea that luxury can come only from the old world.
“The European brands, they see prestige, history, heritage,” said Sunny Wong, group managing director of Trinity, a company that owns and operates high-end European retail brands in China. American brands, by contrast, are seen as “contemporary, lifestyle” rather than pure luxury, he said.

American retailers are racing to prove Mr. Wong wrong.

Source: http://chinesetourists.wordpress.com

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A surge of Chinese tourists is expected to visit New York City in 2010

A surge of Chinese tourists is expected to visit New York City this year, prompting hoteliers and tour operators to better cater to the group by offering amenities from tea kettles in rooms to translated welcome packets.
NYC & Company, the city’s marketing and tourism organization, expects a 20% increase in visitors from China this year compared with a weak 2009 when the recession cut business travel-the major impetus for Chinese travel to New York. If the estimate holds up, 223,000 tourists from China will come to New York this year, topping the 2008 record by a small margin.
Nationwide, the U.S. Commerce Department predicts a 22% increase in travelers from China in 2010. Through February 2010, 141,071 tourists from China and Hong Kong have visited the U.S., ranking China ninth among arrivals, and an 86% increase over last year. Tourism experts say New York is usually on the agenda for Chinese visitors to the U.S.
Some city hotels have experience in catering to the Chinese. The Mandarin Oriental has long-offered a traditional breakfast of rice congee, soy-poached chicken, steamed pork bun and a boiled egg. But now it is developing Chinese language cards and letters to welcome guests and explain local attractions.

An in-house translator and complimentary tea kettles and tea in-room for Chinese guests is also in the works. The New York Marriott Marquis also serves a traditional Chinese breakfast in its Encore Restaurant and has Mandarin speakers on staff.
At the Waldorf Astoria, Stanley Wong, a Cantonese-speaking senior concierge, says more Chinese tourists will be a boost for retail across the region. His affluent clients like shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and often request a trip to the Woodbury Common outlet in Central Valley, N.Y.
“Sometimes they don’t speak any English but they know Woodbury Common,” he said. (A spokeswoman for the Premium Outlets Division of Simon Property Group said that Woodbury Common is the largest destination for Chinese visitors of its 42 shopping centers in the U.S.). ” New York City is by far the #1 shopping destination in the World for Chinese travelers, before Paris and London”, also declared Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus, a Shanghai based marketing agency.

On a recent afternoon in Times Square, tourists from China took photos in front of Broadway banners. Yumin He, a 56-year-old teacher from Beijing, made his first trip to the U.S. this month for a wedding. He and his wife traveled across the country with a daughter who lives in San Diego and had been in New York for a week.
“People were really optimistic, the food is good, the environment is great and the air quality is great,” Mr. He said. The family also visited Philadelphia, Boston and Niagara Falls. “We weren’t able to see everything in depth. We just skimmed the surface with sightseeing because everything with the tour group was really rushed,” he said.
Though the majority of travel from China to New York continues to be business-related, the leisure sector is growing, largely because of an agreement signed two years ago that made it possible for groups to travel from China to the U.S. China’s growing middle class also accounts for an increase in leisure travel.

Today’s Chinese tourism market is similar to where the Japanese market was 10 years ago, said Richie Karaburun, president of GTA Americas Inbound, a tour wholesaler based in New York with offices in Shanghai and Beijing. “Within seven to 10 years, if we play our cards right, China will be one of the biggest markets inbound to the U.S.,” he said. The company has seen a triple-digit increase in bookings from China over last year.
Most of the standard tourist attractions in Manhattan are popular with visiting Chinese. But tour operators also say one lesser-known site very important to Chinese visitors is the “Charging Bull” sculpture in Bowling Green Park. Says Mr. Karaburun: “Many Chinese think if they touch the bull, they will have good luck on the stock market.”

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