The tropical island of Hainan has made its mark on the world when it comes to duty-free shopping and domestic tourism. It’s no longer the elephant in the room, more of a raising phoenix during this apocalyptic period for the travel retail sector.

ForwardKeys, a world-leading travel analytics company that processes over 200K air tickets per day, from airlines and travel agencies around the world, recently signed a new partnership with a leading payment service provider in China allowing travel data to be now complemented with Chinese spending data. Using the Chinese Shopper Tracker, the team of analysts has uncovered a few gems worth sharing particularly with Golden Week looming in October.

China’s secrets to success


With domestic China travel recovery at full steam ahead, key take outs other destinations and businesses can make is that the travel recovery was aided by:

  • Greater control of the spread of the virus and individual movements by the nation-wide health card that was installed tracking movements with negative testing required if you went to high-level cities in the past 14 days to ensure any form of travel.
  • Incremental increases to the local seat capacity for domestic flights
  • Alluring and flexible air passes encouraging domestic travel and regional travel to Hong Kong and Macao
  • Government introduction and increases to duty-free allowances.

All up this has greatly impacted and encouraged the surge of travellers in July. The air space of south-west China has witnessed the busiest air traffic this summer.China-Expert-Session-17-Sept-website-2-2As this graph demonstrates, the rising star in duty-free shopping, Sanya, was given a helping hand by an increase in seat capacity.

Golden Week in the Year of Corona

All eyes are eagerly waiting to see if the normally lucrative Golden Week will remain so, albeit enduring a global pandemic and travel restrictions.


According to the latest Air Ticket data from ForwardKeys, “Golden Week is set to thrive, especially with a surge in the expected last-minute bookings that will take place closer to date.”

When looking at data reflecting bookings issued as of September 7 for the period between 1 – 7 October, Sanya leads the way with a growth of 26%, Chengdu comes in 2nd place with a growth of 10%.

Something to take note of is a trend that China Market Expert, Nancy Dai, believes is here to stay: the habit of booking a trip at the very last minute.

“Booking last minute is the “New Normal”, she adds. That’s right, 67% of travellers now book 0-4 days before a trip! That’s up from the previous 53% one year ago.

Upon closer inspection to determine the origin of these keen shopaholics, it appears Shanghai travellers lead the way followed by Shenzhen denizens.

Spending Profile of Hainan Shoppers

Deeper insight into who is exactly shopping in Hainan has been shed by using the spend data in the Chinese Shopper Tracker. For example, in July the average shopper was aged between 30 – 50 years of age. That represents 60% of shoppers, with 35% being between 18 – 30.

A major trend for brands and retailers is the double increase, both in the number of Duty-Free transactions as well as in the average transaction value – in direct line of the new regulation for Duty-Free goods in Hainan.China-Expert-Session-17-Sept-website-3-4Looking at luxury brands purchased during the last 12 months anywhere in the world by shoppers in Hainan this July, the top 4 brands are Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gucci, and Chanel. And brand loyalty can be extremely high with 71% of those purchasing Louis Vuitton favouring only this brand, disregarding the other 3.

Considering these challenging times with on/off travel restrictions and flight limitations it is very encouraging to see that there is truly a pent-up demand for travel and people do desire to shop – in good times and the bad ones.


Share this, choose your platform!