The importance of shopping tourism for destinations and hotel companies

Shopping tourism can bring new sales opportunities for your hotel. Find out how it works and how you can start planning a strategy at your property to attract consumers interested in this travel motivation.

1. Shopping as the main tourist attraction

The concept of ‘shopping tourism’ is quite recent, and is expanding in the tourism sector. Its expansion in the market is due, like many changes currently taking place, to new consumer attitudes. For years, consumer purchases in the tourism sector were considered a leisure activity, a circumstance linked to travel motivations, whether for pleasure or business travel. Today, this has become the main motivation for travel for many customers: more and more travelers are choosing to travel abroad to purchase products rather than buying them in their home country.

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


From this perspective, we can observe that the relationship between tourism and shopping is not so strange, since the shops most visited by travelers are those located in the downtown area of the cities, which are usually also points of activity of tourist companies.

This travel experience, then, becomes at the same time a powerful element 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 stores that specialize in a commercial sector, such as fashion or gastronomy. While big brands are of interest to consumers, the truth is that they are brands that are possible to locate in any destination.

What travelers want is to go to local stores where the quality of the products is combined with the identity of the destinations. In other words, consumers find local stores selling unique quality products more attractive compared to other destinations, as revealed by Jörn Gieschen, a researcher at the Institute of Enterprise (IE). For example, we all know that many travelers travel to Valencia to taste the authentic Valencian paella, or that shoppers who wish to purchase a high-quality watch travel to Switzerland to visit its best watchmakers.

Therefore, shopping tourism can become ahotel tool to attract this specific consumer segment to hotel establishments. However, with ‘shopping’ being their main motivation for traveling to other destinations, it requires taking a new approach to shopping: instead of considering it a leisure activity unrelated to travelers’ stays, establishments should consider new strategies specifically dedicated to attracting this segment de customers through the sale of shopping experiences in the destination.

2. International shopping tourism

It is common for travelers to have expenses when traveling for vacation or business, so any place of interest has an average tourist expenditure. In the case of destinations that are starting to generate interest in shopping tourism that average is much higher than in those destinations where this tourist motivation is not being promoted.

You might 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 where there is a highest average daily spending by travelers, exceeding $150 (Esatur, 2018).

And why? Because they are places of interest for their shops, in addition to their powerful tourist value. Geneva brings together exclusive watchmakers, department stores and stores specializing in Swiss chocolate, while Zurich has streets full of luxury stores. Thus, these destinations are not only attractive for sightseeing, but also for buying gifts and especially for acquiring exclusive products that cannot be obtained elsewhere, or for the satisfaction that many shoppers derive from buying products in these cities.

And what kind of experiences can tourist establishments offer? Let’s take Switzerland, which is world famous for its watches, as an example. One of the Swiss ‘shopping tourism’ experiences is the guided visit to watch factories; apart from their possible interest in buying a watch in this destination, it is an attractive activity to make them know more closely the watch manufacturing procedures.

Another inspiring idea is that of Tailor Made Shanghai, a company founded by an American living in China: his company is dedicated to tailor-made clothing and offers its customers a travel experience in Shanghai. This experience consists, on the one hand, in the making of the garments in the company, and on the other hand, in the realization of cultural and gastronomic activities in Shanghai for the client. In this way, the company offers its customers a whole experience in the destination, so that at the end of their trip they can take their garments home with them.

3. Spain as a shopping destination

What is the situation of shopping tourism in Spain? No one doubts the great tourist attraction of this country, which makes it the second destination in the world with the highest number of incoming tourists. The destinations where travelers are starting to generate more spending when shopping in Spanish stores are Catalonia, Madrid, Andalusia, Balearic Islands and Canary Islands (Esatur, 2018). This does not mean that the rest of the destinations cannot contribute benefits, but it does mean that tourist establishments should promote campaigns associated with shopping tourism to boost this activity in the rest of Spanish destinations.

The market that brings more buyers to Spain is China. Already between 2014 and 2015 the Chinese had become the clients who spend the most shopping in Spain and Europe(Ernst & Young, 2015), and they still continue to be the main ‘shopping’ travelers in our country. The Chinese consider that Spain has great potential for shopping tourism, however, their offer is not becoming known among the high purchasing power classes. Spain, then, could aspire to receive travelers who could spend more money shopping in Spanish territory, but the tourism sector is not taking advantage of its full potential.

The Madrid 7 Estrellas initiative carried out by the Community of Madrid, with the aim of boosting Madrid’s image as a shopping tourism destination for the Chinese, for example, has done so. Such has been its success that they have decided to expand this same strategy to the markets of Japan, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and India.

And what are the interests of Spaniards? A recent study by Booking revealed that 34% of Spaniards surveyed take their fashion and shopping interests into account when choosing their vacation destinations (Booking, 2018). On the other hand, interests such as gastronomy (49%) and nightlife (40%) also count when choosing their vacation spot. These data are fundamental to start devising strategies to attract local customers who are interested in going on vacation without moving from Spanish borders.

4. How to prepare my company for shopping tourism?

As you have been able to see, this new travel motivation can reinforce the attractiveness of the destination where your establishment is located, as well as bring an innovative activity to the services of your hotel that attracts this new segment of the tourist market. If you want to start preparing your hotel for shopping tourism, take into account the following factors.

4.1. Know the trends

Before you start planning your leap into shopping tourism, it is essential to know some of the trends that are boosting opportunities for this activity. And if we talk about trends, we cannot fail to mention digitization, which has greatly boosted tourism shopping. It is true that consumers continue to pay by card or cash, but the possibility of making payments through mobile devices will bring great opportunities for hotel establishments that prepare activities aimed at this market segment.

We have talked about the fact that big brands can be found in every destination. And that is why there is talk that tourism companies should organize campaigns away from globalization. That is to say, move away from the promotion of big brands, and take advantage of the power of small and local businesses.

As we mentioned earlier, travelers are beginning to feel more attracted to local businesses, and therefore to local and more exclusive products, those more related to the cultural identity of the destinations. An interesting experience to sell is, for example, the creation of routes of local businesses or activities related to this sector.

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

4.2. Preparing strategies

To plan and sell an experience to attract customers interested in tourist ‘shopping’, a number of factors need to be taken into account.

  • The commercial strengths of the destination in which your establishment is located
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  • The cultural or touristic strengths that can be combined with the above
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  • Study of the market from which you wish to attract customers
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  • The creation of a trade route
  • The creation of a route of shops
  • An experience that can be complemented with other products and services of your hotel
  • .


The objective is, then, to devise a travel experience that you can offer in your hotel, either as a secondary experience or launch to turn it into a package of services of 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 customers come to your website looking to book their next stay at your hotel, but it can also become a magnificent platform to attract customers interested in shopping tourism. You can imagine how: creating quality content with the keywords or keywords that you have discovered are trending in the target audience you are interested in attracting. And of course, providing all the information about the experience you want to offer to those interested in tourism shopping. This way, you will achieve online visibility and reach new segments interested in this activity for your hotel.

4.4. Prepare a video marketing campaign

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

Image: Flickr (CC BY 2.0) Marco Verch

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