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Hong Kong Remains a Vibrant Retail Opportunity for Mainland China Travelers
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Hong Kong Remains a Vibrant Retail Opportunity for Mainland China Travelers

Already brimming with its own dense population, Hong Kong is also a rich travel destination for many people from around the world. But despite its global appeal, almost 80% of the territory’s visitors come from mainland China—and those travelers are significant contributors to Hong Kong’s economy.

While the influence of mainland China travelers to Hong Kong is notable in many ways, they are particularly relevant for two key industries: tourism and retail. In fact, the Hong Kong Tourism Board reports that visitors from mainland China now account for 75% of the tourist arrivals in Hong Kong, up from 54% in 2006. These travelers also contribute 35% of Hong Kong’s total retail sales, which is up from 15% 10 years ago.

The numbers are almost unbelievable: Hong Kong is home to about 7.4 million people, yet the Hong Kong Tourism Commission reported that the region welcomed almost 42.8 million mainland Chinese visitors in 2015. While that figure was down 3% from 2014, mainland visitors accounted for 77% of Hong Kong’s total visitors. So why is Hong Kong such a popular destination for mainland Chinese consumers? According to Nielsen’s recent Mainland Traveler study, Hong Kong covers off on the top six reasons that consumers look for when they consider regional travel.


So who are mainland China travelers, and what are they looking for in Hong Kong? Among the nearly 46 million travelers, more than 17 million stay more than one day. These travelers spend an average of 2.7 nights in Hong Kong per trip and spend more than ¥20,000 (US$2,900) each time they visit. And while five in 10 visitors buy jewelry and watches on their trips, shopping isn’t Hong Kong’s only attraction. And what’s more, the visitors who come to enjoy the food (51%) and culture (40%) spend 10% more during their visit than those who come just to shop.

With such a large, captive audience, marketers need to be at the top of their game when it comes to appealing to travelers and delivering on their specific interests. And that means engaging them well before they arrive—and where they spend the most time planning: online. Notably, when it comes to influence, online travel agencies and social media are dominant influencers, at 95% and 49%, respectively. Upon arrival, travel hubs, especially airports, are critical message points to engage with visiting shoppers. In fact, more than half (51%) say they arrive through the Hong Kong airport, making it an ideal spot for advertisers to make their first impressions with mainland travelers.

But it’s not enough to simply capture travelers’ attention. Retailers also need to be sure they’re offering goods and services that meet consumers’ expectations.

Finding “Super Mainlanders”

As with any consumer segment, not all mainland China travelers to Hong Kong are created equal. In fact, a select 23% of mainland tourists make more than 54% of all mainland traveler purchases. Aside from their retail worth, you won’t see much difference between these “super mainlanders” and the remaining travelers. While the household incomes of super mainlanders are slightly higher than those of conservative mainlanders, the real difference is what they aspire and what triggers them to spend more as influenced by different touch points.


In light of the fact that super mainlanders spend 2.5x more than they earn, there’s little doubt they’re more than worth engaging with. When it comes to reaching super mainlanders before the travel, social networking sites, online travel ads and online discussion forums rank highest in terms of travel source info (53%, 43% and 27%, respectively).

Once they’re in Hong Kong and shopping, super mainlanders frequently open their wallets for cosmetics, clothing, jewelry/watches, handbags and electronics. They’re also 50% more likely than other mainland travelers to make an unplanned purchase in these categories. And to inspire those spur-of-the-moment decisions, manufacturers and retailers should leverage in-store displays, in-store promotions and WeChat.