Household spending will continue to lean toward services rather than goods
Holiday travel has made a comeback for millions of Chinese people, with the numbers from the Golden Week holidays generally encouraging, particularly in the domestic travel-related service industry. Unfortunately for companies outside of China, substantial numbers of Chinese tourists opted to stay within the country and travel domestically due to low confidence levels and issues with visas and flights. Luxury and fashion houses in Europe are unlikely to see a resurgence of Chinese tourists for quite some time.
The vast majority of holiday spending in China was directed toward services. However, that may not be immediately apparent in service-based MNCs’ results. That’s because many of those who traveled domestically, especially the younger generation, have embraced what is known as “special forces-style tourism,” characterized by fewer shopping activities, more resort check-ins, and lower overall consumption. If this trend persists, companies that sell premium products and services will want to evaluate their approach to capitalizing on domestic tourism.
Traditionally, within China, the Golden Week holidays are marked by increased property transactions, which provide a boost to the sales of durable goods. However, this year, the housing market remained sluggish throughout the holiday period, significantly impacting consumer spending on goods. As a result, sellers of goods, especially those offering premium products, are likely to discover that their sales growth during this holiday season has been less than impressive.
Now that the holidays are over and people have resumed their regular work routines, MNCs should approach the remainder of the year with realistic expectations regarding revenue generation. This is because many households likely brought forward a large portion of their spending for Q4. Having just enjoyed a major holiday, Chinese consumers are likely to exercise more caution in their spending between the Golden Week this month and the upcoming Spring Festival holidays in February 2024. As a result, MNCs should expect to encounter subdued consumer demand through the rest of Q4 and into the beginning of Q1 of next year.
- At the beginning of October, China had a restriction-free, week-long National Day holiday for the first time in three years, prompting millions to take to the road.
- The nation recorded about 826 million domestic trips over the eight-day vacation period, over 104% of the level seen in the same holiday period in 2019.
- Official data also shows that total revenues during the holiday period reached CNY 753.4 billion, growing by only 1.5% compared to 2019 on a comparable basis, undershooting official projections.
- The total number of outbound tourists during the holiday reached 5.95 million, representing a recovery of 85% compared to the same period in 2019. In contrast, the total number of outbound tourists during the May Day holiday was 3.15 million, only reaching 59% of the same period in 2019.
The tourism data from the National Day Golden Week revealed a strong desire among ordinary Chinese people to seize the opportunity to travel and enjoy holidays, marking a return to a sense of normalcy since the reopening. The notable increase in the number of trips, surpassing that of the same holiday in 2019, indicates that people are still enthusiastic about venturing outdoors and spending on various services.
However, total spending fell short of official projections and our expectations. Post-COVID “pent-up demand” was not as strong as anticipated. This indicates that while Chinese consumers are still willing to spend on enjoyable holiday experiences, they are not willing to splurge or engage in heavy revenge spending, because they are cautious about making significant financial commitments. They are more inclined to spend on items that do not require a substantial investment.
The holiday spending will undoubtedly contribute to the consumption figures for Q4, but the increase is expected to be moderate. Considering that this is the final major holiday of the year, it is unlikely that consumption in Q4 will be sufficient to significantly increase overall GDP growth. Furthermore, it is likely that some of the spending anticipated for Q4 was brought forward to the holiday season, which will result in subdued consumption for the remainder of the quarter.
Consumer confidence in China clearly remains subdued. While people still want to enjoy “feel good” holiday experiences, they are becoming more reserved with their spending, as they grow increasingly concerned about their household finances’ stability. The persistently sluggish property sector continues to dampen consumers’ confidence, making them hesitant to make significant purchases. While smaller expenditures on services are acceptable, indulging in big-ticket items will require much more consideration.
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