The past few years has seen a notable rise in the number of Chinese consumers travelling – and spending – abroad. There is even a word for this in Japanese which refers to the high levels of spend by Chinese tourists when visiting Japan: “Bakugai” which means “explosive buying”. A bakugai boom started in 2014, and peaked during Chinese New Year 2015, having huge influence in the Japanese economy. Bakugai was chosen as the joint winner of the U-Can New Words and Busswords Awards in 2015.
By around mid-2016, despite the increasing numbers of Chinese tourists, bakugai started to slowdown, and significant bakugai was not seen during Chinese New Year 2017.
What is happening among Chinese tourists? A reason why bakugai has been fading is the drop of exchange rate in Chinese yuan against Japanese yen – but a less favourable exchange rate is not the only reason.
Chinese tourists visiting Japan are shifting to become “experience-driven,” meaning these tourists seek new experiences, such as visiting onsen (Japanese hot springs), and are not simply visiting to shop. This spring, hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is one of most popular attractions for visitors to Japan.
The chart below, based on results from GlobalData’s global primary research from 2016 Q4, indicates the top reasons for consumers booking holidays.
Seeking relaxation is the top of reason why Chinese consumers would book a holiday, with 86% of Chinese consumers saying relaxation is a desirable reason for a holiday. Understandably, relaxing onsen is appealing to these consumers. Also 73% say that they are somewhat or extremely likely to book a holiday for culinary or cultural experiences. Shopping-driven holidays may have been dying out, but other opportunities targeting Chinese tourists have potential.