In 2015, Chinese Tourists are willing to venture further afield in their search for new and interesting things to buy. Japan is not the only country that has benefitted from the shifting patterns of Chinese spending. Farmers in Nepal have reported earning massive amounts from rudrakshas, seeds that grow on trees and are traditionally used as prayer beads by Buddhists and Hindus. Many of these purchases have come from China. Some countries, such as South Korea, have been even luckier, with the Chinese not simply venturing there for a holiday and to make a few interesting purchases, but choosing instead to invest significant amounts of money into improving the country.
The island of Jeju in South Korea has recently benefited from an enormous influx of Chinese Tourists, who bring wealth and jobs with them, although they are also causing some tension and resentment among the local residents. These Chinese tourists are investing in local property, with the result that hotels, casinos and residential condos are springing up all over the island. Chinese nationals make up 98% of the 1,000 people who have filed for residency in South Korea since the government decided to create an incentive — anyone who purchases property worth at least 500 million won, and keeps it for five years, is allowed to reside permanently in South Korea. It’s certainly a plan that is boosting the local economy, even if some of the local residents are not happy about it. China is South Korea’s most significant trading partner, and this is a microcosm of what’s going on in the wider scheme between the two countries, with trade links increasing as the economies shift and develop. In Seoul, the Chinese tourism boom has had an enormous effect on how the South Korean city caters to visitors. Mandarin Chinese can be heard in the streets; Korean skin care and makeup products draw in many Chinese customers, and South Koreans are even being taught to speak Mandarin in order to maximise sales potential. 4 million Chinese pile into South Korea each year with one goal in mind — shopping. Chinese investors have flooded South Korea’s service sector by 940 percent, pouring money into media and cinema companies, and sales in South Korean stores have accordingly tripled as a result of Chinese spending power.
The Chinese tourists haven’t stopped at properties when it comes to investment overseas. Taobao, China’s answer to eBay, allows sellers to market anything within reason, but when three islands – one belonging to Fiji, one to Greece, and one to Canada – were put up for sale, bidding was fierce, with all the islands being ultimate won by Chinese citizens. In 2014, seven islands were sold, which Taobao said was a reflection of the rising demand among wealthy Chinese citizens to own little pieces of paradise all over the globe. No longer content with condos in California, it seems that now nothing short of a Greek island will do.
For anyone who hasn’t got an island or two to spare, it can be hard to predict how to respond to this changing Chinese market with the hope of launching a product that would appeal to the world’s biggest body of luxury goods consumers. The things Chinese citizens buy even within their own country are weird enough — in China, you can buy a live crab from a vending machine, a keyring containing a live turtle in a small water-filled pouch, or a can of air for when you need a respite from the pollution of China’s larger cities. Outside of China, it seems as if Chinese tastes are equally unique and unpredictable. One thing is for sure, though – any market that does succeed in appealing to the Chinese will benefit. The citizens of South Korea may not be particularly happy at the moment about the number of Chinese flocking to their small islands, but as the property market continues to boom and the country’s GDP goes up, the power of the Chinese dollar will become ever more evident.