US, Chinese tourists win gold, silver in Olympic spending


Souvenir-hungry tourists from China are snapping up the stuff at Vancouver’s Olympics that they grind out at home.

Visitors from China earned a silver medal in consuming by spending the second-largest amount of any country on the first day of the Winter Games, Visa Canada said Tuesday.

Chinese tourists and Olympians used their Visa credit, debit and prepaid cards to the tune of $395,000 US across the province on Feb. 12, the company said.

That puts them behind top-ranked U.S. visitors, who collectively shelled out $2.3 million that day.

Simply because much of the Winter Games’ souvenir gear is made in China doesn’t mean it’s available there, said Andrew Woodward, Visa’s head of marketing and sponsorship communications.

“Chinese tourists the world over are great tourists. They’re good spenders,” Woodward said. “They’re getting things they can’t get at home.”

Olympics-fuelled spending by international visitors in the Games’ early days has vaulted Visa card spending across B.C. by more than 50 per cent from a year ago, Visa reported.

International visitors spent $16.6 million US in B.C. during the Games’ first three days, up from $10.8 million during that period a year ago.

And that’s not counting bills paid through rivals of Visa, which is the official payment system for the Games.

Nor does it count prepaid items or outlays by Canadians.

“People are here to spend,” Woodward said. “Merchants are geared up and friendly and are making this a good consumer experience.”

Woodward, who was unable to compare Olympics spending in B.C. with levels in earlier games, said accommodation sucks up the biggest chunk of visitor dollars, followed by retail and then restaurants. At $7 million US, Saturday was the big spending winner of the Games’ first three days. Foreign visitors to B.C. shelled out $4.4 million on that day a year ago.

Daily B.C.-wide spending could spike higher, depending on how long competitors keep their teams here — and whether a country wins gold, Woodward said.

“A North African country competing in Beijing won an unexpected gold medal and their spending went through the roof the next day,” he said.