Chinese tourists splurge on French tax-free luxury: study

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Chinese tourists to France increased their spending massively on tax-free luxury goods last year despite the economic crisis, overtaking cash-strapped Russians, a report found on Thursday.

The Chinese bought tax-free goods worth 158 million euros (222.5 million dollars) in France in 2009. That was an increase of 47 percent from the level the previous year, according to Global Refund, a company specialising in tax-free shopping for tourists.

The economic crisis caused Russians to curb their spending, which dropped by 22.7 percent to 111 million euros, according to the study, which was based on figures collected by stores partnering with Global Refund.

Chinese tourists spent on average 1,071 euros in tax-free goods last year, while Russians shelled out 1,055 euros each.

"The increase from the Chinese is not surprising. What was unexpected was the fall in business done with the Russians," Jean-Marc Leroy, director general of Global Refund France, told AFP.

Tax-free shopping by Chinese tourists has been increasing for the last two years, rising by 39 percent in 2007 and 23.3 percent in 2008. They now represent 15 percent of sales and 13 percent of transactions.

The Russians were the only tourists to spend less last year, Leroy said.

"(Russians) who came to spend without counting in France saw their revenues fall even though they are still rich and probably very busy with their businesses," Leroy said.

Spending by Japanese tourists rose by 16.7 percent to 100 million euros, or 823 euros per person, owing to a favourable exchange rate, Global Refund said.

Americans opened their wallets again after reducing their spending by 25.2 percent in 2008. US tourists spent 61 million euros last year, a modest 1.9 percent increase.

Brazilians ranked fifth as their spending rose by 5.4 percent to 39 million euros.

Ukrainians remained the biggest spenders on average at 1,481 euros per person, followed by tourists from Saudi Arabia, who spent 1,435 euros each.

They also had a big appetite for watches and jewellery, with Ukrainians spending 7,782 euros on average for such goods while Saudis spent 4,978 euros.

Overall, tax-free spending rose by 4.3 percent in 2009, compared to between six and seven percent the previous year, Leroy said.