Mainland visitors become more complex and diverse in recent years.
Recommendations from friends and social networks are most popular for information collection.
Hong Kong – The number of Mainland China tourists visiting Hong Kong totaled nearly 33.5 million as of October 2013, representing more than 75 percent of the total number of visitors to HK last year, according to latest figures from the Hong Kong Tourism Board. However, a recent report by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy, finds that mainland visitors are coming to Hong Kong less frequently, staying for shorter periods, and spending less, compared to last year.
Nielsen’s Mainland Tourist Study analyzed the shopping behavior and experience in Hong Kong among different segments of Mainland Chinese visitors, and how each segment has evolved since 2010. Conducted between August and September 2013, the survey is based on online interview of 1,016 mainland visitors from Tier 1 to Tier 3, aged between 18 and 50, who had travelled to Hong Kong or Macau over the past 12 months. The report is aimed at understanding mainland tourists’ purchase patterns and experiences in Hong Kong and Macau.
Composition of Mainland Tourists is Evolving
Mainland tourists comprise a large part of business opportunity among marketers in Hong Kong. Information from China National Tourism Administration shows that by the end of 2013, the number of China outbound travelers will total 94 million, a 15-percentage point growth compared to 2012.
The evolution of mainland tourists can be reviewed through the change in tourist profile, travel patterns and shopping behavior. According to Nielsen’s information, more than half of the mainland visitors traveling to Hong Kong are coming from Guangdong province, thanks to proximity and convenient transportation. At the same time, the proportion of tourists coming from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities* is growing significantly, from 31 percent in 2012 to 54 percent in 2013.
According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, same-day visitors have increased significantly over the past 10 years, from 2 million in 2002 to 19.8 million in 2012, outpacing the overnight visitors’ number. It is expected that the number of same-day visitor will grow much faster by end of 2013 as well.
There is a 12-percent increase in the number of mainland tourists traveling to Macau comparing to last year**. However, Nielsen report shows that the number of visiting Macau after Hong Kong is on the decrease, indicating that more people prefer visiting Macau directly.
How Do They Spend?
According to the survey, the average actual spending among mainland tourists recorded a double-digit decrease to HK$24,800 in 2013, and spending on shopping recorded an 8-point slump as well. “Nowadays mainland tourists visit Hong Kong not only just for shopping, but also have other recreational things to do,” said Eva Leung, managing director of Nielsen Hong Kong and Macau. “The government’s efforts to promote Hong Kong with cultural sightseeing, festival attractions and food have successfully attracted mainland tourists with alternatives, providing them with reasons to come to Hong Kong.”
Regarding the purchasing purposes, 75 percent of mainland tourists say they shop for themselves, with key purchasing categories including luxury-branded fashion, jewelry, cosmetics and electronics. For spending allocation by categories, differences exist between Guangdong and non-Guangdong visitors. According to the Spending Index within the survey, Guangdong visitors intend to spend more on consumer packaged goods, while big ticket items such as luxury, consumer electronics (mobile and tablet PC), cosmetics, jewelry and watches are the those items that non-Guangdong visitors would purchase more.
Also in terms of brand selection, there shows a tendency of difference in terms of consumer packaged goods in between Guangdong and non-Guangdong visitors, in particular, infant milk formula products. This is largely influenced by the brand familiarity that they have in their home.
According to the report, more than half of mainlanders travelling to Hong Kong or Macau claimed that they had planned what they wanted to purchase during their visit. “After the introduction of Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) 10 years ago, mainland visitors are getting more sophisticated and familiar with the Hong Kong environment, allowing them to spend less time in planning for a trip to Hong Kong,” Leung said. “This means both retailers and suppliers in Hong Kong have opportunities to win those potential customers through in-store activation, or to concert them out of impulsive spending,”
For those planned purchasers, word-of-mouth promotions and social networks are most popular channels to gather product information. More than half of the respondents in the survey would refer to recommendations from friends or relatives, while online blogs and social networks (Weibo, Wechat) are popular with 44 percent of respondents.
“Among those planned purchasers with high engagement on online platforms, there is an opportunity for marketers to create targeted brand awareness programs by advertising on blogs and forums to maximize the reach to their potential consumers. Strategies in using social media to connect and resonate with the mainland tourists have become more and more critical in order to maintain brand awareness today,” said Leung.
* Tier 2 cities are defined as provincial capitals, while Tier 3 cities are defined as cities under the provincial capital level from every province across the country.
** Macau Tourism Bureau, Q1-Q3 2013 figures.