Tourists love to shop. Studies by the U.S. Travel Association and the Department of Commerce show that shopping and dining are the top two activities of travelers. In fact, travelers spend one-third of their total travel funds on retail purchases.

Shopping tourism: couple on vacation
Shopping tourism is appealing to all kinds of travelers

Shopping Tourism On the Rise

According to Ian Stazicker, tourism director – global marketing at Virtuoso partner Value Retail, shopping tourism account for 40 percent of global luxury spending. Value Retail operates nine Chic Outlet Shopping open-air designer villages outside European hubs such as Paris and Madrid, as well as one in China.

Retail tourism is growing so fast, says Stazicker, that “between 2008 and 2012 we have seen an increase in visitors of more than 43 percent to 30 million.”

What’s New with Shopping Tourism?

Distinct trends in shopping tourism are emerging:

  • Shoppers are favoring smaller items like jewelry and purses because of airline luggage restrictions, notes Shelley Greenan, a Virtuoso travel advisor in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • Business travelers are taking time to shop, sometimes booking shopping tours on their trips, says Stazicker.
  • For designer duds, New York, Miami and Beverly Hills are tops, says Katie Cherico, a Virtuoso travel advisor in New York City.
shopping tourism - a woman visits Paris
Paris is always a favorite shopping tourism destination

Customized Experiences

Cherico creates luxury shopping experiences tailored to her clients’ interests.  “For clients who are interested in antiques, we have a personal guide and shopper with over 15 years of experience in the Paris antique market who will lead them through the markets and help negotiate fair pricing,” she describes. “We have personal shoppers in Florence to help clients navigate the leather markets and explore private designer boutiques that they otherwise would not have access to.”

Hot Stuff

Cherico continues: “Whether that is coral from Croatia or gold from Greece, clients are looking for statement pieces with a history and a story of their own.”  She adds that exotic locales such as India, Istanbul, Morocco, and Thailand are favored for unique purchases.

The Après-Shop

Debbie Collins, a Virtuoso travel specialist in Edgecliff, Australia, makes sure the shopping tours she arranges include a healthy dose of pampering: “In Shanghai, the first day is always the Scientific and Technology museum markets for bags, shoes, pashminas, etcetera. We use a particular hotel because of its convenience to shops. After a long day, they offer complimentary foot massages in the spa, a must for the hard shopper!”

A Virtuoso travel advisor can design the shopping tourism experience of your dreams.  Don’t have an advisor?  Visit to be matched with one.