Calculating the impact and expenditure produced by Shopping Tourism in tourist destinations is a difficulty that every researcher in this field has to face from the very beginning, as well as the multiple concepts that exist of this type of tourism, as is well referred to in some texts that we find in the Network.

Some definitions:

  • At first every activity that ended in purchases was talked of as Shopping Tourism, the term “shopping paradise” was included as all the fiscal stimuli that encouraged purchases in one place. (Jansen Verbeke).
  • In 2004, Moscardo suggested that all the consumption tourists carry out in specific services will be Shopping Tourism.
  • Dallen Timothy says that consumption is not only about products, it’s about places, spaces and time.
  • Stansfield observed that the shopping behaviour is different when people are on vacation. Source: Global Report on Shopping Tourism. UNWTO.


Photo by Cleo Vermij
Photo by Cleo Vermij

Travel motivations. What is the criteria for choosing a Shopping destination?

On many occasions the number of and access to shopping centers, famous zones and/or zones specialized in Shopping are decisive for the choice of place for Shopping.

Most common are the following:

1). A specific product and/or activity a possible destination country is known for, for example: going to Switzerland to buy watches.

2). A specific event: New York Fashion Week, Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival

3). Tax-free zones for purchases combined with a strong cultural offer. Example: Colón in Panama City. Source: Global Report on Shopping Tourism. UNWTO

What are the Shopping Tourists interested in?

  1. The quality of acommodation.
  2. The variety of services and activities The quality and variety of the restaurants The treatment received Price Sanitary factors (quality of the infrastructure, cleanness, etc).
  3. The gastronomy
  4. Wellness, understood as relaxing activities or non-invasive cosmetic treatments, and city tourism
  5. European travellers in particular view the climate as a decisive factor to choose the destination to visit Source: Demoscopic study of the international demand of travels. Turespaña. 2012
  6. Women are the most representative niche with 61% participation compared to 39% of men in shopping activities. Source: Demoscopic study of the international demand of travels. Turespaña. 2012

Types of shopping tourists:

Within this segment two types of tourists have been identified:

The cosmopolitan and that of beach, gastronomy and shopping.

  • Cosmopolitan

Prefers urban tourism, gastronomy and shopping. Interested in products of art and culture. Is the most common segment in the markets of America (Mexico and Brazil), Eastern Europe and Japan. Consumes above the average, is found among those aged 18 – 24 and 65+ years High status level, high education level, high income.

  • Beach, gastronomy and shopping

Prefers rural tourism, nature, gastronomy and shopping. Consumes above average Is a segment more common in the European markets. Between 45 – 64 years old Has a lower level of education and status compared to the cosmopolitan, is more experiential.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo


  1. Trends in China, the ‘Wenyi’ tribe, a rapidly growing group of young professionals, characterized by the search of liberty, quality of life, experience, singularity and self-realisation; through shopping they develop this vision. They want to buy products that tell a story and mostly focus on elements of design, books or music.
  2. “Hedonists” are a niche of wealthy young people, mostly students, for whom only pleasure trips matter, going shopping, eating in good restaurants and generally spending a good time.
  3. The creation of “villages” that aim for a luxury experience with first class services including the selection of restaurants, cafés, boutiques and stores with unique discounts is the new trend especially in Europe and Asia.
  4. Loyalty programs which include points and miles for purchases made.
  5. Luxury products are increasingly sought-after.
  6. Not only quantity but quality has become an important factor for the tourists in this segment, especially those who visit Switzerland.

Issuing countries of Shopping Tourism

According to the total tax refunds managed by Global Blue, the largest international buyers are tourists from the following countries:

Main issuing countries of Shopping Tourism with their respective market share Ranking 2018

  1. China 30.1% 2. Russia 12.9% 3. USA 3.9% 4. Indonesia 3.4% 5. Saudi Arabia 2.5% 6.Thailand 2.4% 7. Taiwan 2.4% 8. Kuwait 2.4% 9. Japan 2.4% 10. Hong Kong 2.3% 11. UAE 2.3% 12. Malaysia 2.0% 13. Korea 2.0% 14. Switzerland 1.8% 15. Qatar 1.7% 16. Rest of the world 25.4%.

The study called Global Shoppers based on the collection of the data of tax refunds made by GLOBAL BLUE classifies the markets based on two criteria, number of transactions and their amounts. According to this:

  • China and Russia have the largest number of transactions, though the amounts of the Chinese transactions surpasses those of the Russian ones.
  • Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Indonesia are those who make purchases of the largest amounts.
  • Japan, USA and Malaysia also have an important number of transactions.
  • Indonesians, Thai and Russians dedicate over 30% of their spending on international travels on shopping. Saudi Arabia, whose residents dedicate 32% of their spending on international travels on shopping, is on the same level. Japanese and Malaysians destine 22% and 21%, respectively.
  • The most important growth in spending on international travels has happened in China 26% and UK 25%. USA, Germany and the Russian Federation have grown over 2% each. Ranking 2013 Country USD (Billions) Growth compared to 2012 1 China 129 +26% 2 USA 86 +3% 3 Germany 86 +2% 4 UK 53 +25% 5 Russian Federation 53 +4%.

Some of the most outstanding shopping destinations of the world

 New York

3 types of visitors the city receives:

  • -“Souvenir Shopper” The one who wants to take gifts of the experience in the city. Buys something emblematic.
  • -“More commercial visitor” Seeks the latest coat of the collection, the designer bag, is a more structured buyer, chooses particular shops with a list in the hands.
  • -“The city is essential for their activity” For this tourist buying means entertainment and experience, living the city fully and buying at the same time.

London West End

  • Is an urban area of London, located in the city of Westminster, attracts more than 200 million yearly visits of which 50% are tourists mostly from the other side of the ocean generating £7,6 Billion of retail sales.
Photo by Fancycrave


  • With its “Shopping Line” made up of about 200 shops on 5 kilometres and presence of international and national brands, the “Barcelona Shopping Line” is now known worldwide by lovers of shopping. According to a survey among the visitors of Barcelona (7 million a year) the Shopping experience offered is rated 8,4 on a scale of 1 – 10.


  • A survey from 2012 showed that about 50% of tourists in Venice come specifically to shop, as well as for cultural and leisure activities. Like the big Shopping cities Venice has its large street called XXII Marzo, near Piazza San Marco (one of the main ones of the city) in the historic center.


  • City tours and Shopping are two inseparable partners in Austria especially in Vienna. According to the surveys of visitors by the Vienna Tourism Office (T-Mona), 82% rated the activity of Shopping as one of the most important on their vacation. The foreign visitor coming to Vienna spends an average of 265 Euro a day on accommodation, food, shopping, attractions, among others, compared to the average of 181 Euro registered in Austria.

Sao Paulo

  • According to the Tourism Observatory of Sao Paolo (OTS) the city received 13,8 million visitors, a number that surpasses that of the city´s population. A study by said Observatory showed that tourists who declared their main motive to be Shopping stayed more nights than other travellers. According to the OTS following accommodation (42,2%), Shopping (22,2%) represented the largest spending during travels to Sao Paolo, even before food/drink (15,8%) and other consumer articles.

Strategies of Shopping Tourism in some destinations

 France Atout France – National Tourism Development Agency

  • Promotes Shopping opportunities in specific markets.
  • Strategic alliances with large warehouses and tour operators to create specific commercial products.
  • “Shopping By Paris” the campaign includes a package offering travelers a 10% discount in more than 270 shops for a determined period.
  • The program “Le Tourisme de la Ville” also has the goal of attracting visitors to others cities, increasing the visitor’s stay in the country by this, expanding the impact of tourism to different regions and widening the tourism offer.

 USA American association “Shopping and Dining” – joint with the Department of Commerce of the USA

  • This association knows the motives of travel of the tourists who come to the country and the activities they do, by this they can focus the strategies in a more effective and efficient way.
  • In the USA, the visitor from Singapore spend 73% of their budget on Shopping, Mexico 60%, Japan 59%, Australia 47%, Germany 40% and United Kingdom 37%.


  • Second in the world on the ranking of spending – UNWTO 2017
  • Spain is consolidating itself as a Shopping destination, mainly for the markets of Latin America, Middle East and Africa.
  • In its campaign “I need Spain” the product of Shopping is highlighted in a particular way to promote it internationally.

Italy ENIT – National Agency of Tourism

  • The agency has focused its efforts on promoting the country as a Shopping destination and reestablishing its reputation as one of the leading countries worldwide in the fashion and design industry.
  • Opportunities in the emerging markets have been identified, for this reason they’re destining more resources dedicated to speed up the visa process and to customer service training.

Turkey The city of commerce

  • Turkey has characterized itself by attracting tourist thanks to its commerce.
  • The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is one of the oldest and largest in the world, it’s estimated that it receives between 250.000 and 400.000 visitors daily.
  • From 2005-2011 the Cevahir Mall, a modern shopping center in Istanbul was considered the largest in Europe and the seventh-largest in the world.


  • The European hub
  • The spending on Shopping Tourism is concentrated in the city of Frankfurt, one of the main German cities, hub of several airlines and business center, its visitors come mainly from China, Switzerland and UAE.


  • Largest shopping destination of South East Asia
  • The Tourism Ministry of Malaysia has created the “Festival of Mega Discounts” within its efforts to promote Shopping Tourism, an initiative that seeks to position the country as a strong destination in this niche.
Author: member of World Shopping Tourism Network