Welsh tourist Edward Evans became the first person to benefit from a new tax refund on Wednesday as he left Beijing. Evans, who was visiting China for the first time, received a 45 yuan (about 7.30 U.S. dollars) rebate after purchasing 502 yuan worth of goods at a souvenir shop in Beijing Capital International Airport.
From Wednesday, overseas tourists visiting Beijing and Shanghai can get tax refunds on purchases made at select stores in the two cities. The refund will encourage travellers to spend more knowing they will get some money back, Evans said.
Foreign tourists and those from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan who stay on the Chinese mainland for fewer than 183 days can get a rebate of up to 11-percent on goods bought at designated department stores. Currently there are 86 such stores in Beijing and 27 in Shanghai.
The minimum purchase for the rebate is 500 yuan at one store in one day. The rebate covers everything, apart from items which cannot be taken overseas. A pilot tax refund program started on the southern island province of Hainan on Jan. 1, 2011, where the minimum purchase was 800 yuan and covered only 324 items. Tourists must submit a tax refund application, invoices and a valid ID to customs to receive the rebate, Fan Kun, vice director of Beijing customs, said.
Yuyuan Garden shopping mall in Shanghai has two stores designated for refunds.
“It is interesting to see duty-free shops in Shanghai for the first time,” said Lee Yin-hsueh, 40, from Taiwan, who paid 622.8 yuan for shoes and pants.
Zhang Yan, deputy head of the mall’s marketing department, said the mall has trained four staff on the new policy and hired staff fluent in English, Japanese and Spanish to serve tourists. In a contrast to Chinese tourists’ enthusiasm of shopping overseas, consumption by foreign tourists in China is stagnant.
“In 2014, shopping by overseas tourists in Beijing accounted for only 26.7 percent of total tourist spending, compared to 40 to 50 percent in developed tourist cities across the world,” Wang Yue, vice director of Beijing tourism commission, said.
Wang said the new policy will not only help Beijing as a tourist destination, but will help Beijing’s traditional brands to grow and go global. Beijing has more than 100 well established brands. The tax refunds will make the brands more attractive to foreign tourists, and will help them develop, he said.
Last August, the State Council released a guideline on tourism, vowing to develop tourism shopping and drive up domestic tourist consumption to 5.5 trillion yuan by 2020.