Tourism board pins down big spenders

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 2011, 12:00am


Mainland visitors are known to be big spenders. But how many are there and how much do they spend?

The Tourism Board has finally come up with an answer by surveying 10,000 mainlanders at border checkpoints. Of the average 60,000 who come to Hong Kong every day, 1.5 per cent, or more than 900, spend upwards of HK$50,000 shopping their way across the city.

While it is a small percentage, it is a major driving force for the economy considering the huge number of mainlanders who visit the city. There were 22.7 million of them last year, and 1.5 per cent is 340,500, or about 930 people a day. Spending HK$50,000 each, they alone would add more than HK$17 billion to the city's economy each year.

The big-spending group accounts for long queues outside shops selling luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton.

Of the big spenders, 60 per cent said they bought high-end goods such as handbags, 40 per cent went after watches and 30 per cent bought gold accessories.

Meanwhile, the average mainland visitor spends HK$5,483 on shopping, an increase of 8.6 per cent from 2009. Instead of luxury products, these respondents said they preferred buying clothes, cosmetics and snacks.

But they are still keen shoppers compared to visitors from elsewhere. Short-haul and long-haul travellers spend HK$2,411 and HK$2,134 respectively, much less than the mainland average.

'Fast economic growth on the mainland and the appreciation of the yuan continue to lift the purchasing power of mainland residents. Hong Kong is also able to offer diverse choices for shopping,' board chairman James Tien Pei-chun said.

Total spending in the city by tourists from around the globe rose 32.7 per cent from 2009 to a record high of HK$209.98 billion. Sixty-one per cent of tourist spending went to shopping.

Taking into consideration their spending on accommodation and dining, mainland tourists still rank first, with average total spending of HK$7,453, followed by North Americans on HK$6,476.

The chief executive of the Luk Fook Group jewellery chain, William Wong Wai-sheung, said mainlanders formed the majority of customers in shops located in such favourite tourist spots as Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. 'People usually spend tens of thousand of dollars... but every year there are a few customers who spend more than HK$1 million,' he said.

Times Square promotions and marketing manager Vernon Ma Wai-lock said three out of 10 visitors to the Causeway Bay mall were tourists. The mall was visited by about 140,000 people on weekdays, rising to 190,000 on holidays. Ninety per cent of tourists were from the mainland, and he expected more of them in the future.

'China Union Pay [a mainland bank card] made up 30 per cent of all credit card transactions of our shops last year,' he said. The average size of Union Pay transactions was HK$2,000 to HK$3,000.

Most shoppers were individual tourists or business travellers, but the mall occasionally received tours of mainlanders with extremely high spending.

He said one major mainland bank organised a trip to Hong Kong for 500 credit card holders last year. 'All of them spent more than HK$1 million on their credit cards a year,' he said.