The importance of shopping tourism for destinations and hotel companies

    Written by: Paula Ortiz

    How to start adapting a hotel company to shopping tourism? Which benefits can be obtained if you adapt hotel services for this activity? This new tourism trend has become one of the important decision factors when choosing a destination to go on holidays.  Internationally, trade market is already taking advantage of its benefits, and there are many companies that already have products and services designed to attract foreign buyers. Now, is time for hotels to join the trend and start using the new opportunities offered by shopping tourism.

    1. Shopping as the main tourist attraction

    The concept of 'shopping tourism' is quite recent, and it is expanding in the tourism sector. Its expansion through the market is driven, like many changes that are taking place today, by the new attitudes of consumers. For years, consumer purchases in the tourism sector were considered a leisure activity, a circumstance linked to the motivation to travel, whether for a holiday trip or a business trip. Nowadays, this circumstance has become the main motivation to travel for many customers: more and more travelers choose to travel internationally to purchase products instead of buying them in their country of origin.

    For travelers interested in this type of tourism, shopping abroad goes beyond the products themselves: it has become a travel experience in which they prioritize both the quality of the shops and the time they will devote to this activity. Although it has become the main motivation to travel for some, it can also be compatible with other motivations, such as cultural interests in the destinations where they want to go shopping, so travelers can make their purchases along with visiting the destinations' places of interest.

    From this perspective, we can see that the relationship between tourism and shopping isn't so strange, since the shops most visited by travelers are those that are located in the downtown area of the cities, which are usually also points of activities for tourists.

    This travel experience becomes a powerful tool to enhance the attractiveness of destinations. Finding a place that can satisfy the shopping needs of travelers is essential in this experience, especially those places that have specialized stores in a commercial sector, such as fashion or gastronomy. The big brands inspire the interest of consumers, and these are the brands you can find in any destination.

    What travelers want is to go to local shops where the quality of the products is combined with the identity of the destinations. In other words, consumers are more attracted to local businesses that sell exclusive quality products compared to other destinations, as revealed by Jörn Gieschen, researcher at the Instituto de Empresa (IE). For example, we all know that many travelers travel to Valencia to try the authentic Valencian paella, or those who want to buy a high quality watch travel to Switzerland to visit their best clock stores.

    Therefore, shopping tourism can become a tool to attract this specific segment of consumers to hotel establishments. However, shopping as the main motivation to travel requires a new approach to purchases: instead of considering them a leisure activity not related to the stays of travelers, establishments should consider new strategies specifically focused on attracting this segment of customers by offering shopping experiences in a destination.


    2. International shopping tourism

    It is common for a traveler to have expenses when traveling for holidays or for business, so any place of interest has an average of tourist spending. In the case of destinations that are beginning to generate interest in shopping tourism, that average is much higher comparing to those destinations where this type of tourism is not promoted.

    It is easy to imagine that cities like Rome or Paris are the cities with the highest average tourist spending internationally, right? Well the surprise is that London, Madrid and Barcelona are considered the best cities for shopping tourism, but Geneva and Zurich are the destinations in which there is a higher average daily traveler spending, exceeding $ 150 (Esatur, 2018).

    Why? Because these places have become attractive shopping tourism destinations, in addition to being destinations of cultural tourism. Geneva brings together exclusive watch stores, huge department stores and shops specialized in Swiss chocolate, while Zurich has streets full of luxury shops. Thus, these destinations are not only attractive for tourist visits, also for buying gifts and especially to purchase exclusive products that can not be obtained elsewhere, or for the satisfaction that many buyers get from purchasing products in those cities.

    And what kind of experiences can tourist establishments offer? Let us take again Switzerland as an example, which is world famous for its watches. One of the experiences of Swiss shopping tourism is a guided tour of watch factories. Apart from possible interest in buying a watch in this destination, it is an attractive activity to show the travelers the manufacturing procedures of watchmaking.

    Another inspiring idea is Tailor Made Shanghai, a company founded by an American who lives in China: his company is dedicated to tailor-made clothing and offers its customers a travel experience in Shanghai. This experience consists, on one hand, in the preparation of the clothes in the company, and on the other hand, in cultural and gastronomic activities in Shanghai for clients. This way, the company offers its customers an entire experience in the destination, then at the end of their trip they take their clothes home.

    3. Spain as a shopping destination

    What about shopping tourism in Spain? The great attractiveness of this country makes it the second destination in the world by the volume of inbound tourism. The regions where travelers are beginning to generate more expenses when buying in Spanish stores are Catalonia, Madrid, AndalusiaBalearic Islands and Canary Islands (Esatur, 2018). This does not mean that the rest of regions cannot provide benefits, but tourism establishments should promote campaigns associated with shopping tourism to activate this experience in the rest of Spanish destinations.

    It might sound surprising, but market that brings more buyers to Spain is China. Between 2014 and 2015 the Chinese had become the customers who spend more money buying in Spain and Europe (Ernst & Young, 2015), and until now they continue to be the main shopping travelers of the country. Chinese buyers consider that Spain has a great potential for shopping tourism, however, its offer is not well-known among the high purchasing power classes. Spain could aspire to receive travelers who could spend more money buying on Spanish territory, but the tourism sector is not taking full advantage of its potential.

    The initiative Madrid 7 Estrellas, organized by the Community of Madrid, tried to solve this issue by enhancing the image of Madrid as a destination for shopping tourism for the Chinese consumers. Their success has motivated them to expand this same strategy to the markets of Japan, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and India.

     And what are the interests of Spanish customers? A recent study by Booking.com revealed that 34% of Spanish respondents are influenced by their interests in fashion and purchases when choosing their holiday destinations (Booking, 2018). On the other hand, there are also interests such as gastronomy (49%) and nightlife (40%) that impact the decision. These data are fundamental to begin to devise strategies to attract local clients who are interested in going on holidays without leaving Spain.

    4. How to prepare my company for shopping tourism?

    As you have seen, this new travel trend can reinforce the attractiveness of a destination where your establishment is located, as well as provide an innovative activity to your hotel that will attract this new segment of the tourist market. If you want to start preparing your hotel for shopping tourism, keep in mind the next factors.

    Before planning to go to the market of shopping tourism, it is essential to get to know some of the trends that are enhancing the opportunities. And if we talk about trends, we can not forget to talk about digitization, which has greatly enhanced this type of tourism. It is true that consumers continue to pay by card or with cash, but the possibility of making payments through mobile devices will provide great opportunities for hotel establishments that want to attract this segment of the market.

    We have talked about how big brands can be found in all destinations. This is why tourism professionals talk about the aim of tourist companies to organize campaigns away from globalization, which means moving away from the promotion of international brands, and taking advantage of the power of small and local businesses.

    As we mentioned above, travelers are beginning to feel more attracted to local businesses, and, therefore, to local and more exclusive products that are more related to the cultural identity of destinations. An interesting experience to sell is, for example, a route of local shops or activities related to this sector.

    Finally, the tourism sector knows that foreigners from more distant countries spend more money than travelers from neighboring countries. That's why a good shopping tourism strategy should not exclusively seek to reach as many consumers as possible, but reach a number of quality customers willing to pay more for a shopping experience in Spain.

    4.2. Prepare the strategy

    In order to develop and sell an experience for customers interested in shopping tourism, it is essential to take into account a number of factors:

    • The commercial power of the destination in which your establishment is located
    • The cultural or tourist power that can be combined with the commercial power
    • The study of your target market
    • The development of a service - a route of local shops
    • An experience that can be complemented with other products and services of your hotel


    The objective is, therefore, to devise a travel experience that you can offer in your hotel, either as a secondary or a primary experience by turn it into a package of services for your hotel and consequently into one of the main attractions of your hotel chain.

    4.3. A website for shopping tourism

    You already know that your clients come to your website in search of booking their next stay in your hotel, but it can also become a great platform to attract customers interested in shopping tourism. You can already imagine how: by creating quality content with trending keywords that correspond to your target audience. And of course, by providing all the information about the experience you want to offer to those interested in the shopping tourism. Thus, you will achieve online visibility and reach new segments interested in this activity.

    4.4. Prepare a video marketing campaign

    We all know the power of video marketing in the tourism sector. And yes, it is a great strategy if your goal is to get into shopping tourism. A fantastic example has been this campaign carried out by the tourism experience company Become Córdoba. This campaign has been able to perfectly enhance the main elements within the commerce of Córdoba and merge them with the cultural attraction of the city. 

    Image: Flickr (CC BY 2.0) Marco Verch

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