Hong Kong’s Tourism Board has long called the city a shopper’s paradise. Now, it can point to a study that hails the former British colony as Asia’s top shopping destination.
Global Blue, a Switzerland-based company that helps foreign shoppers to obtain tax refunds, teamed up with the Economist Intelligence Unit to rank 25 cities in Asia-Pacific on their shopping offerings for visitors. The researchers made their rankings based on five categories: Shops, affordability, convenience, hotel and transport, and culture and climate.
In the resulting study, titled the “Globe Shopper Index Asia-Pacific,” Hong Kong came out on top, scoring 68.5 out of 100 thanks to its convenience and wide selection of shops. The city was also praised for factors such as its long sales periods (the city’s stores marked down items for 22 weeks last year) and its shops’ multilingual staff.
Hong Kong’s one weakness was in the affordability category. Owing to its popularity as a tourist destination, especially among mainland Chinese, the city’s hotels are often full, which in turn pushes up room prices. Taxis are also relatively expensive compared to other Asian cities. On the other hand, the cities that performed well on the affordability ranking – Ho Chi Minh City and Dhaka were the top two – often ranked low in other categories, such as convenience and variety of shops and brands.
Last year, 41.9 million tourists flocked to Hong Kong, up 16% from 2010, and spent 253 billion Hong Kong dollars ($32.6 billion), according to the city’s tourism board. Sixty-seven percent, or 28.1 million, of the city’s visitors came from mainland China.
The study put Kuala Lumpur in second place with a score of 65.1, while Shanghai and Beijing scored 63.1 and 60.7, respectively. Singapore came in fifth, followed by Sydney, Bangkok and Tokyo.
While Kuala Lumpur doesn’t have Hong Kong’s international reputation as a shopping haven, the researchers pointed out that the city’s goods are cheap, the hotels are plentiful, and the metropolis has several gigantic malls, including three of the world’s top 10 shopping centers by size. Air-conditioned malls also help to make up for the Malaysian capital’s biggest weakness: The city ranked third to bottom in the study’s climate category.
Global Blue, which tracks world-wide movements of tourist shopping dollars, projects that the rapid rise of travelling shoppers from mainland China will continue despite the economic uncertainty in the country.
“We don’t see a slowdown at all,” said Per Setterberg, the company’s president. He added that while Hong Kong is a top shopping destination in Asia, many Asian shoppers still see the European capitals as their favorite places to shop in the world. “Those cities are the home to the large brands, and they want to go for the experience of shopping there.”
The company’s first “Globe Shopper Index” study, released last year, focused on Europe. London ranked as Europe’s top shopping destination, followed by Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Rome.