This year more than a million tourists turned up on Hainan island, often referred to as China’s Hawaii, for R&R over the Lunar New Year – which occurred late last month. But by the end of the holiday, many were neither relaxed nor rejuvenated. Instead thousands went online to vent their frustration at the overcharging and scamming of holidaymakers on Hainan.
Many complained that hotels continued to jack up room rates even after the provincial government had ordered caps on hotel room prices in peak season. Restaurants, too, took advantage of tourists. Take Luo Di, the president of a Beijing real estate agency, who told Xinhua that a fairly standard three-course meal cost his friend Rmb4,000 ($625) at a restaurant in Sanya at the southern tip of Hainan. “My friend told me he only asked the price of the fish and didn’t order it. But the restaurant’s owner immediately cooked the fish and charged him Rmb1,160/kg,” Luo wrote on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-equivalent. His post was quickly forwarded over 40,000 times, with many netizens echoing similar complaints.
To quell the tide of anger, Sanya’s city government wrote on its own weibo that the seafood restaurant at which Luo’s friend had dined was now closed until an investigation into its pricing practices was complete.
But while some of their experience in Hainan may leave much to be desired, Chinese tourists have been enjoying better service farther afield. They have also been spending aggressively – an impressive $7.2 billion on luxury goods were bought overseas during the week-long Spring Festival holiday, a 28.6% jump year-on-year, says the World Luxury Association.
As WiC has reported before, overseas retailers are increasingly focused on how best to cash-in on the Chinese tourists. One example is Akky One, an electronics chain in Akihabara, a Tokyo neighbourhood known for sales of gadgets and electronics. It moved all of its sales staff, including 50 or so Mandarin-speakers, to its duty-free shop to serve Chinese customers, temporarily shutting up shop at other Akihabara stores catering to Japanese clients, says the Wall Street Journal.
It looks like a smart commercial choice. According to Caijing, Akihabara received about 700 visitors a day from China last month. Tomohiko Okano, a store manager at Laox, another electronics chain, says Chinese customers spend about ¥70,000 per person. “They are very brand-conscious. They want items made in Japan,” he says.
How about Westerners? “They buy T-shirts. Their average is far less than ¥10,000.”
Elsewhere, Chinese tourists were splurging on heftier purchases, with Canadian real estate brokers working overtime to process demand from newly-minted Chinese millionaires for property in Vancouver.
“In the last two days, I’ve had non-stop telephone calls from all the top Chinese agents in the city to show my properties,” real estate agent Malcolm Hasman told CBC News, adding that the beginning of the Lunar New Year is always a busy time for Chinese buyers.
This year was busier than most, it seems. The reason? Disappointed by the recent performance of the domestic stock market, Chinese buyers have been more eager to invest in property, Melanie Briggs of MAC Marketing told CBC. “Based on what we’ve seen in past years in our downtown projects, we’ve definitely seen at least double the volume of sales,” says Briggs.
South Korea was another popular destination for a select group of Chinese travellers – namely, medical tourists. Taking advantage of the holiday, many Chinese tourists made trips to plastic surgeons in Seoul, with estimates that they made up 30% of patients.
Some top-end hotels in Seoul have also launched health tourism services in collaboration with city hospitals, so that their customers can get medical care whilst staying at the hotels. The Lotte Hotel World even operates a medical centre including a dental clinic and an oriental medicine service. And the Ritz-Carlton Hotel opened a beauty clinic last month to provide a comprehensive health service for wealthy Chinese customers, as well as a luxury French-style spa.
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