Come on in, big spenders

Retail shopping is the largest expense for tourists from China who venture to our shores, accounting for 24.6 per cent of their total spend, according to a recent report by Nielsen and Alipay.

In fact, the average budget for Chinese tourists increased 15 per cent to $9382 per year, providing ample opportunity for tourism-focused shopping centres to attract the business of cashed-up travellers looking to buy.

“Chinese tourists have become a critical market for the retail sector in recent years, and despite challenging conditions for the broader retail sector, Chinese tourist spending has exploded,” Alipay ANZ country manager George Lawson told IRW.

“Special offers and promotional marketing are commonplace in China, and we’ve seen Australian retailers become increasingly savvy in targeting Chinese tourists, who injected $11.5 billion into the Australian economy last year, making this market too big to ignore.”

However, in order to properly attract these tourism dollars, a shopping centre must be willing to put in the time and effort.

Shuttle off to Chadstone

Chadstone Shopping Centre, which attracts more than 450,000 overseas visitors each year, has put forward several initiatives in order to ensure these visitors are getting the best possible shopping experience.

For example, the centre runs an hourly shuttle bus service which brings visitors from the Melbourne CBD to Chadstone every hour, and returns them to hotels and CBD landmarks at the end of the day, lowering the barrier to entry for those who may be unfamiliar with the city.

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“Visitors to Chadstone from more than 50 kilometres away can request a Chadstone Passport, which includes information to guide customers around the centre, as well as discounts at many of our retailers,” Chadstone general manager Fiona Mackenzie tells IRW.

“[Additionally], our team represents a range of diverse backgrounds – something we’re extremely proud of – which means there are many languages spoken by the Chadstone team, making it easier for international customers to find what they’re looking for.”

Unsurprisingly, Mackenzie notes that luxury retailers continue to function as a major drawcard for international shoppers – a driving reason why Chadstone has expanded its luxury retail offer to more than 30 Australian and international luxury brands.

Shopper Hopper to Birkenhead Point

Outlet centre Birkenhead Point similarly has put a focus on serving its international guests, with approximately 40 per cent of its total visitors having come from overseas.

“Tourism in Australia is one of the five growth industries for the Australian economy … [and] shopping is always in the top three things to do for a tourist,” Mirvac Retail national manager of tourism destinations Gemma Bosworth tells IRW.

“That would be the key driver for our focus on tourism. I also think a lot of our assets and our centres are destinations in their own right… so they do attract a high tourism visitor.”

According to Bosworth, Mirvac offers a visitor passport similar to the one offered at Chadstone and is finding its own way to physically bring overseas customers into its shopping precinct.

“One of the key elements for Birkenhead Point, because we’re six kilometres out of the city, is access,” Bosworth says.

“To create an experience and help with that [issue of] access, we created the Shopper Hopper.”

The Shopper Hopper, a bookable ferry service connecting Birkenhead Point with Harbourside Shopping Centre and Circular Quay, allows customers to reach the centre within 22 minutes – passing Sydney landmarks such as the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

“You get to capture all of those Sydney icons on that trip, with a bit of commentary on board as well, so that’s proven really popular,” Bosworth says.

“Since launch [in 2016] we’ve had over 30,000 people on board [the Shopper Hopper] going direct to Birkenhead Point.”

Since the offer requires booking in advance, Birkenhead Point is able to understand the level of activity it can expect to have over a period, with bookings of the Shopper Hopper service in place up until May.

These various offers tie in directly to Mirvac’s partnership with Chinese travel agent Ctrip, which provides Chinese tourists who book flights or accommodation through its service with promotional offers and coupons for use at Birkenhead Point.

As a part of this partnership, Birkenhead Point is able to access data from Ctrip, which allows it to better understand its customer, and better cater its experience towards serving them.

“[We can see] where they’re spending, what they’re looking for and what they’re interested in,” Bosworth says, noting that since the partnership’s launch in December they have seen approximately 50 redemptions.

“The average spend is around $500 from a Ctrip customer, and the largest spend was $2800 in one transaction.”

Mirvac has also enjoyed a two-year partnership with Chinese bank card UnionPay across the majority of its tourism centres, which offers a gift with purchase, further incentivising tourist spend at Birkenhead Point.

Welcoming the Year of the Pig

With the 2019 Lunar New Year falling on the fast approaching February 5, the tourism-focused shopping centres are expecting to see an influx of Chinese visitors and are preparing accordingly.

Birkenhead Point, for example, is engaging with prominent Chinese artist Guan Wei to create a bespoke artwork installed on a 22-metre wall, as well as extending Lunar New Year-specific offers to Ctrip customers.

Additionally, the centre’s Chinese social media accounts – WeChat and Weibo – will share digital promotions across the period to reward followers with gifts.

Chadstone, on the other hand, is offering more retailer-specific offers, with various retailers – such as Peter Alexander, Hugo Boss, Mecca Cosmetica and Dior Beauty – on-board to deliver Lunar New Year-themed gifts, packaging and offers.

Customers at the Melbourne shopping centre who spend more than $288 can enter a draw to win a Chadstone gift card of up to $500, but if the purchase is made with a UnionPay card they could potentially win a second $2000 gift card – further incentivising spend-happy tourists to enter the draw.


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