Luxury shops pay guides to bring wealthy tourists

Chinese guides boycott shops that refuse to pay them 10 percent of the sales from wealthy tourists

Chinese guides demand thousands of kroner from luxury shops in exchange for bringing them wealthy Chinese tourists, Berlingske newspaper reports.

Luxury shops told the newspaper how the guides refuse to bring the tourists unless they are paid a cut of between five and ten percent of the sales made from the wealthy Chinese shoppers.

The practise was an industry secret in Copenhagen until several shops recently spoke out about how they were boycotted by the guides because they refused to pay the cut.

While not illegal, the tourism organisation Wonderful Copenhagen would rather the city was not associated with such practises.

“The phenomenon is widespread in countries where there is heavy competition for tourists,” Wonderful Copenhagen spokesperson Peter Rømer Hansen told Berlingske. “It’s not a phenomenon we want in Denmark.”

According to Berlingske, Chinese tourists spent over 200 million kroner in Copenhagen in 2011 and many luxury shops are so reliant on this income that 50 percent of their turnover comes from Chinese visitors.

One shop that refused to pay the cut is Ecco on Østergade in Copenhagen. The store's manager, Micky Kastoft, told Berlingske that the guides asked for cash in exchange for bringing the tourists.

“We said 'no thank you',” Kastoft said. “Ecco already has a strong brand recognition in Asia so many Chinese still find their way in here. But for shops and brands that are less well known it’s more important to pay the guides in order to get the Chinese customers.”

Some of the shops that admitted to paying the guides included the jewellers Klarlund and the watch company Ole Mathiesen, though neither would reveal who much they paid.

But while the guides could earn thousands of kroner on their ten percent cuts from a day of accompanying wealthy Chinese tourists as they buy fur coats or exclusive watches the guides themselves reportedly have to pay tour agencies up to 150,000 kroner for the privilege.

Wonderful Copenhagen has now started a training program for Chinese guides that will first be held in 2013 in order ensure that tourists are given reliable and transparent information.

“If tourists find out that things are going on behind their backs, they risk feeling tricked and returning home feeling misled,” Hansen said.

Retailers association Københavns City Center (KCC) denies that the practice of paying guides is problematic.

“When guides and shops work together to get tourists into shops, it can only be a good thing,” KCC board member Michael Hansen said. “As I see it, it’s a type of marketing co-operation and there is nothing wrong with that. On the contrary.”