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U.S. Emerges as Top Choice for Shopping Tourists, WTTC Report

USA - a favorite shopping destination for travelers

U.S. Emerges as Top Choice for Shopping Tourists, WTTC Report Reveals

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) unveiled a significant revelation at the Virtuoso Travel Week event, solidifying the U.S. as the favored destination for shopping enthusiasts. Julia Simpson, President & CEO of WTTC, made this announcement during the ongoing event in Las Vegas.

Simpson noted, “Retail tourism is a thriving market segment of the Travel & Tourism sector in the U.S.,” emphasizing the sector’s robust standing in the country.

A collaborative research effort between WTTC, the Hospitality and Tourism Research Centre of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and The Bicester Collection, the report’s findings are scheduled for release on September 7 at La Roca Village, a part of The Bicester Collection, situated in Barcelona, Spain.

The report offers insights into the worth of retail tourism, revealing that it constituted a significant US$178.2 billion in 2019, equivalent to 6% of the entire Travel & Tourism sector. It can even make up over 15% of some destinations’ economies.

Historically, retail tourism has been an overlooked sector, resulting in limited data for strategic planning and investment by travel providers.

WTTC’s latest report aims to rectify this gap, providing valuable insights into shopping habits during travel, trends in retail tourism (including sustainability), and the potential it holds for both destinations and businesses.

According to WTTC’s most recent data, the U.S. led in retail tourism contributions to GDP in 2019, with a substantial US$34.7 billion. Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. retained its position, contributing US$17.5 billion in 2020 and a notable US$23.9 billion in 2021.

Julia Simpson emphasized, “For millions around the world, shopping is one of life’s great pleasures. The pandemic impacted both travel and retail industries severely, but as the world reopens, this report shows how the retail experience can become a journey too.”

Countries offering tax-free shopping incentives have witnessed a boost in tourism revenues. Conversely, nations like the UK, which ended its tax-free shopping program, have seen visitors shift to countries like France or Italy, leading to the loss of critical export revenues for the UK.

The shift in VAT rebate regulations in France, including a three-day window for purchases exceeding €100 in Paris, has bolstered retailers and led to a surge in Paris visits, surpassing London as the UK phased out its VAT refund scheme.

WTTC’s upcoming report aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of retail tourism, addressing shopping habits, emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities faced by the sector.

By incorporating insights from experts, academics, and practitioners, the report offers a holistic view of this pivotal market segment.

This pioneering research will also offer recommendations for both the public and private sectors, with the goal of guiding destinations in attracting new visitors, incentivizing retail tourism, and fostering sustainable growth within this sector.