From 5 to 19 February this year, coinciding with the Chinese New Year, 45,000 Chinese visited our country, an amount that was added to the more than 250,000 Chinese who make up the Chinese community resident in Spain and spent in Spain more than 250 million euros in shops, hotels, restaurants, leisure and culture. China continues to lead the spending in Spain, “with about 1,000 euros per act of purchase, representing almost 34% of total spending of travelers outside the European Union,” explains Alvaro Garnica Alvarez-Alonso, president of Global Journey Consulting.
To the visits of Chinese travelers are added those of citizens of South Korea, Southeast Asia and Latin America. “Fashion, jewelry, perfumery and now also parapharmacy, with a strong increase mainly among these Chinese tourists, very concerned about everything related to health, are the star categories,” says Luciano Ochoa, president of Innova Taxfree Group.
Still, the percentage of tourists who choose Spain with the goal of buying is less than 1%. Regardless of this,” says Garnica- almost 90% of those who visit Spain buy a product, whether fashion, jewelry or items related to the cultural identity of the country. Craftsmanship and design made in Spain is also highly valued by international tourists.
And what more attributes should we exploit to become a top shopping destination? For Ochoa, our strong points are “the variety of products, price competitiveness, quality tourist service and safety”.
Another question is whether the value of our country as a shopping destination resides in the major international brands or in local retailers. “Spanish international brands have prestige and are known abroad, although they compete with other countries whose presence in the market is much greater”, says the president of Global Journey Consulting.
Spain seeks to align itself with global trends in shopping tourism and Via Outlets, the operator of European outlet shopping destinations, has summarized in a study by Otto Ambagtsheer, CEO of the company: “The first trend would be to link shopping to an emotion and handcrafted or design souvenirs that evoke a special trip. The second, proximity, because when you travel time is gold. For shopping, a strategic location close to the city and the airport is key. As well as transportation options and perceived security.
The type of shopping traveler the company has in focus is the one who resides near the country’s borders and who moves especially during weekends or long weekends. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 75% of travellers choose short-distance destinations located within their own geographical area. “Thematic or ephemeral experiences in shopping destinations, which capture the local feel of the destination, are also relevant to shoppers,” adds Ambagtsheer.
The demand for the local is also part of shopping tourism. In Via Outlets they talk about beautifully local, tourist experiences inspired by local beauty. To differentiate a shopping destination from a competitor, it is important to recreate, in an attractive way, the architecture, decoration, culture and history of the destination.
According to UNWTO, gastronomy is the third most important motivation when choosing a destination for a traveller, after heritage and culture and nature. For this reason, a shopping day must alternate culinary options at the level of shopping.
Technology also has a direct impact on the shopping experience. “Services based on mobile devices in the shopping tourism environment range from payment options in any international currency or automatic payment, to multilingual chatbots, customer loyalty programmes and special offers. All this adds layers and new experiences to traditional purchases, which can also incorporate augmented reality, through services such as virtual testers, or to provide information on products and prices through QR codes, among other services,” lists the manager.
Finally, Via Outlets cites the importance of integrating shopping into tourism experiences based on collaborations with key players in the tourism industry for VAT reimbursement or the design of services such as lounges, wifi connection, courier services to send purchases home or alternative tourism plans.
Challenges to which the president of Innova Tax Free Group adds three: “More visas in the case of Chinese tourists, increase in international flights and the assessment of implementing a tourist tax in some cities”.
Author: Nerea Serrano