On Dogs, China and Travel

Gucci’s Chinese New Year Capsule Collection (Via LA Times)

By Benoit Badufle

On February 15 at midnight, Chinese throughout the world will celebrate Chūnjié (春节), the Lunar New Year. The Rooster will sing his last song, soon out-sounded by the barking of the Dog.

The Dog means a lot in China: Penultimate sign of the Chinese zodiac, it is also a hunting companion, a guardian of his riches and safety, and more and more a spoilt pet, as seen – sometimes all Gucci-ed – on the sidewalks of China’s thriving megalopolises.

If the 2006 Dog was associated with the element of “Fire”, that of 2018 follows the element “Earth” and favours its colours: brown, beige or terracotta. The most successful fields will therefore be those related to fire (the food), wood or metal (furniture, textiles, agriculture, industry). However, one will have to be wary of the water which brings floods, typhoons and storms.

Like the eleven other signs, the Dog has his duality:

The most idealistic and faithful of all animals, he is always in a good mood. A constructive and effective thinker, he believes in justice. He needs love and affection but he also refuses compromising and is an incorrigible fighter whose displays of tantrum sometimes exceed the acceptable limits. He is not willing nor able to wait for things to happen. On the contrary, he wants to “solve the problems once and for all”. Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Brigitte Bardot were born under this sign. Famous Chinese people born under the sign of the Dog include Confucius, Zhou Enlai and tennis champion Li Na. All will stand out with a natural ascendancy, energy, altruism, loyalty and a strong will.

As Chūnjié comes, the Chinese must have settled his affairs, paid his debts and must observe the rites. In the village, one must shower the clan with gifts and hóngbāo (红包) “red envelopes” which contain a sum of money according to the social status of the giver.

Interestingly, hóngbāos are more and more virtual, sent by smartphone connected to the bank account of the user, or via WeChat, Tencent’s ubiquitous and versatile mobile application.

In facts, Chūnjié has become the new battlefield for Chinese tech companies to attract new customers to their mobile payment platforms. This year Tencent will incentivise its users to “walk” for money: each 100 steps, counted by a pedometer integrated to its other messaging platform QQ, will give them a hóngbāo. Tencent announced that it would also distribute 4 billion Yuan (EUR 480 million) in discount coupons.

Its arch-rival Alibaba will use the platform of the CCTV Gala night which attracts more than 700 million viewers, to play tens of millions of Chinese augmented reality games, distributing 600 million Yuan (EUR 75 million) via Alipay.

If tradition is still around, the Chinese New Year also means big business.

All around Asia, as billions of firecrackers and fireworks will resound and explode, about 3 billion trips are planned for the next 30 days. This represents the largest annual migration in the world.

Some will go back to the “ancestral village” but others will go abroad, which is an ever-growing trend as nowadays, young people in China are less disposed than yesterday to comply with their parents’ wishes under the pretext of filial piety. It is less and less frowned upon to spend Chinese New Year away from family. After all this is a globalised world in China too!

Therefore, the luxury tourism and retail industries overseas may be a big beneficiary of Chūnjié as recent global industry reports now link between 30% and 32% of all global sales of luxury goods to Chinese nationals, with half of those sales happening outside mainland China and Hong Kong. Some reports from consultancy firms such as Oliver Wyman show a decline in Chinese tourists’ use of shopping as one of their main reasons for travel, with a shift to more aspirational motivations. However, the average spending of a Chinese tourist abroad continues to rise (+3.5% from 2015 to 2016).

As in 2018, Chinese New Year coincides with Valentine’s day, those who have included targeted marketing offers to the Chinese affluents will certainly reap an unprecedented harvest.

Happy New Year of the Dog !

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