Sunday, January 3, 2010

International news update for MTA members & readers

Wealthy Chinese shoppers’ latest hot spot: Dubai

Well-heeled Chinese tourists have found a new Middle Easter playground in Dubai. - Reuters pic

BEIJING, Jan 3 — Move over Paris and New York. The hot new luxury shopping destination for well-heeled China tourists is crisis-hit Dubai.

Some tour agencies in Beijing, and even smaller cities like Chengdu in south-western China, reported a doubling or even tripling of people signing up for tours to the Middle Eastern playground of the rich and famous during the Christmas season.

Chengdu-based Dreams Travel tour agency told The Sunday Times that its 7,000 yuan (RM3,456) five-day package and 50,000 yuan luxury tours were all fully booked.

Some Chinese are willing to splurge 30,000 yuan per person for week-long tours at attractions such as The Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping and entertainment venue, and Mall of the Emirates.

Angel Li, in her late 20s, who works for her father’s real estate business, flew off on Christmas Eve for a 15,000 yuan, five-day trip with her boyfriend.

Having shopped in Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue in New York’s Manhattan, as well as in London’s High Street as a teenager, Li said she was “looking for more excitement in a new place”.

She already had her shopping list planned before the trip: Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Dior and Monte Bianco.

A Beijing executive in his 30s told Beijing TV that he was planning to “take advantage of the year-end sales to buy duty-free branded goods that are cheaper than in China”.

He boarded the plane with an empty luggage bag and was prepared to buy another two to cart back the merchandise.

Compared to Western shopping hot spots such as Milan, London and New York, Dubai is a novelty to Chinese big spenders.

Its US$26 billion (RM124 billion) debt scare in end-November, which briefly spooked world markets, has helped.

“The debt crisis has made Dubai famous in Chinese news, so everyone knows about it,” said a sales manager with Dreams Travel who gave only his surname, Li.

And with hotel rates in the emirate under pressure because of the debt restructuring debacle, tour packages look even more attractive.

The Dubai Tourism Board said compared with 2008, when some 96,300 Chinese guests stayed at hotels there, it expected a “remarkable increase” for 2009.

Adding to Dubai’s advantage is the Chinese government’s recognition of the United Arab Emirates as an “approved destination” as of Sept 15 last year.

The status allows locals to apply for visas to travel to Dubai for leisure.

Another edge Dubai has over more established shopping hot spots in the West: Flights from Beijing to Dubai take about 71/2 hours, compared with 91/2 hours to Paris and about 13 hours to New York.

Singapore, another popular shopping destination for the Chinese, has no cause for worry, said tour agencies in Beijing.

“Most Chinese still prefer Singapore because the people there can speak Mandarin. And Singapore’s duty-free shopping is also world renowned,” said China International Travel Service’s manager, who wanted to be known only as Sun. — Straits Times

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