According to the Economist, the answer is yes! France seems to be on the top list of Chinese travelers visiting Europe, but the Grand Tour of the continent covers also some unusual stops such as Cambridge, Benelux, Verona… They spend a third of the travel budget on shopping rather than accommodation and/or fine dining, but are not cheap.
This is definitely an interesting guide to tap a market that is still in its infancy: the rewards might be tangible on a long term.
A sketch map of the Chinese grand tour must begin in France, the country seen as offering all the essential European virtues: history, romance, luxury and quality. Paris shops such as Louis Vuitton are essential stops: witness their Mandarin-speaking staff. In 2009 Chinese tourists passed Russians as the highest-spending non-European visitors to France, according to a survey of duty-free shops. The south of the country is also popular, thanks in part to widely available translations of Peter Mayle’s book “A Year in Provence” and in part to a slushy Chinese television mini-series, “Dreams Link”, which was filmed amid the lavender fields and walled citadels of the Midi.
China’s freshly minted millionaires and billionaires are particularly obsessed with the wine country of Bordeaux, as red wine has taken over from expensive brandy as the business lubricant of choice. At the very pinnacle of desire is a visit to (or just a glimpse of) Château Lafite Rothschild, home of the claret which has become a favoured show-off brand for Chinese plutocrats. Visits to Château Lafite itself are reserved for invited guests, but China’s would-be tycoons are not put off. Jean-François Zhou of Ansel Travel, a Paris-based firm that brings 15,000 Chinese visitors to Europe each year, recently sent a group down to Bordeaux by bus. After an express tour, one of the coach party snapped up two cases of wine at €600 ($790) a bottle.
From France, Chinese groups typically travel south towards Italy via the casinos in Nice or Monaco (gambling is discouraged in China, but wildly popular). Venice and Rome are stops for every nation’s tourists, but the Chinese grand tour also demands a visit to Verona. One site draws them: a 13th-century mansion linked, a bit spuriously, to “Romeo and Juliet”. That play is doubly admired in China. It was one of the first of Shakespeare’s works to be translated into Mandarin, and its storyline is hailed as matching that of a popular Chinese folk tale, the “Butterfly Lovers”. Chinese tourists have their pictures taken below an ancient balcony said to be Juliet’s, and next to a bronze statue of the tragic heroine. Then it is back on the bus, and northward.
In Germany cities such as Bonn and Trier are as important as more obvious sites like Cologne and Frankfurt (a hub for lots of China flights). Bonn means Beethoven: his birthplace there is a coveted stop for educated Chinese, who are avid fans of classical music. In Trier it is not the city or its Roman ruins that attracts the tourists. They come to see the Karl-Marx-Haus, birthplace of the revolutionary. The Marx museum estimates that 13,000 Chinese tramp around the house each year. Mandarin inscriptions fill the museum’s guest books. In the early morning and evening, large crowds of Chinese have their pictures taken outside the house before heading to their next destination.
A stop in Metzingen involves a tribute to another German, the suitmaker Hugo Boss. A short drive from Frankfurt, Metzingen is home to several factory outlets, where Chinese shoppers vie with Russians and Indians as the biggest spenders. It is a standing joke among Chinese travellers that many products snapped up abroad bear “Made in China” labels. But there is some sense to this seeming madness. Thanks to hefty taxes and customs duties, European brands are routinely 40% more expensive back home. In China they are also quite likely to be fakes.
Source the Economist