The School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has joined hands with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) to support the sustainable development of global tourism. Undertaken collaboratively by teams from the SHTM’s Hospitality and Tourism Research Centre and the Council, the WTTC–SHTM Global Retail Tourism project offers critical data-driven insights into the key trends, challenges and opportunities shaping retail tourism in the post-pandemic era.
Although travellers collectively spend billions of dollars every year on shopping, to date there has been a lack of an accurate estimate of the contribution of retail tourism to destination economies. Filling this gap, the researchers set out to provide a thorough understanding of this sector against the backdrop of the post-COVID-19 rebound in international tourism which saw revenues from inbound visitors grow by 81.9% in 2022. Studying global retail tourism from both the demand and supply perspectives was expected to promote both economic recovery and the sustainable development of travel and tourism.
The collaboration was initiated in July 2022, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the SHTM and the WTTC. The School’s team comprised Professor Haiyan Song, Associate Dean, Chair Professor and Mr and Mrs Chan Chak Fu Professor in International Tourism; Dr Richard Qiu, Assistant Professor; and Dr Anyu Liu, Assistant Professor together with two research assistants. Headed by Professor Song, they worked closely with the WTTC research team led by Mr Nejc Jus, Head of Research, over the subsequent year.
The project had three main objectives. The first was to capture the current economic landscape and importance of retail tourism. The second was to shed light on the factors that are shaping demand and supply in the sector at the global and regional levels from the perspectives of tourists and practitioners. The third was to provide guidance for stakeholders on managing the development of the sector sustainably. The researchers applied a mixed-method approach to draw together a comprehensive set of economic, consumer and industry data.
Their first step was to assess the overall contribution of retail tourism to the GDP of major destinations based on data from Oxford Economics, a leader in global economic forecasting and econometric analysis. Next, the SHTM team conducted a survey covering 24 major destinations to gather consumer data on tourists’ shopping behaviours before and after COVID-19. The survey data, gathered from nearly 4,600 tourists, also allowed the team to analyse the demand for sustainable retail goods among travellers.
Finally, the SHTM and WTTC teams jointly conducted in-depth interviews with 13 industry leaders from the retail businesses, NGOs and travel trade to obtain an industry perspective on the key challenges and opportunities facing the sector. This step was conducted with the help of The Bicester Collection, which represents luxury shopping destinations across Europe and China.
The insights gained from this research were drawn together in a ground-breaking report entitled “Global Retail Tourism: Trends and Insights”, which was formally launched at a thought leadership event at La Roca Village in Barcelona, Spain on 7 September 2023. The report’s key findings and recommendations were introduced by a panel consisting of Professor Haiyan Song; Ms Julia Simpson, President and CEO, WTTC; and Ms Desirée Bollier, Chair and Global Chief Merchant, The Bicester Collection.
As the attendees – who came from both the public and private sectors – discovered, the report sheds light on the immense untapped potential of retail tourism for both businesses and destinations. It offers insights into travellers’ shopping habits and intentions and pinpoints emerging trends such as sustainable retail and “retailment” – the fusion of retail and entertainment. After delving even deeper into the retail tourism landscape through detailed case studies of the UK and Hong Kong, the report concludes with recommendations for retailers, destination management organisations and governments.
“Sustainability in travel and tourism will continue to grow in significance after the COVID-19 pandemic,” states Professor Haiyan Song. “It is imperative that retailers understand how much shoppers and travellers are willing to pay for sustainable products.”
The SHTM is proud to have made such an impactful contribution to understanding of the global retail tourism sector, which is playing a pivotal role in the recovery of travel and tourism post-COVID-19. “We are delighted to be part of the WTTC–SHTM Global Retail Tourism project, as applying our knowledge to support the global industry is high on the School’s research agenda”, said Professor Kaye Chon, SHTM Dean, Chair Professor and Walter and Wendy Kwok Family Foundation Professor in International Hospitality Management.
About PolyU’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management
For over 40 years, the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has refined a distinctive vision of hospitality and tourism education and become a world-leading hotel and tourism school. Ranked No. 1 in the world in the “Hospitality and Tourism Management” category in ShanghaiRanking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2022 for the sixth consecutive year; placed No. 1 globally in the “Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services” category in the University Ranking by Academic Performance in 2022/2023 for six years in a row; rated No. 1 in the world in the “Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism” subject area in the CWUR Rankings by Subject 2017; and ranked No. 2 in the world among university based programmes in the “Hospitality and Leisure Management” subject area in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023 for the seventh consecutive year, the SHTM is a symbol of excellence in the field, exemplifying its motto of Leading Hospitality and Tourism.
The School is driven by the need to serve its industry and academic communities through the advancement of education and dissemination of knowledge. With a strong international team of 90 faculty members from 20 countries and regions around the world, the SHTM offers programmes at levels ranging from undergraduate to doctoral degrees. Through Hotel ICON, the School’s groundbreaking teaching and research hotel and a vital aspect of its paradigm-shifting approach to hospitality and tourism education, the SHTM is advancing teaching, learning and research, and inspiring a new generation of passionate, pioneering professionals to take their positions as leaders in the hospitality and tourism industry.
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