Tax free shopping has been increasing in Milan thanks to Middle Eastern tourists. The Milan shopping district is anticipating busy 2020, after international tourists’ visits boomed in 2019, generating an increase in sales between 9% (average purchased value) and 13% (tax-free shopping). This tend seems to trace back, for the vast majority, to tourists from Middle-Eastern Countries. Data has been collected by Global Blue, a Swiss-based shopping tax refund company, who registered a spike in shopping tax refund requests for purchases made in the Montenapoleone district of Milan. Tourists from the Arab world have been a more or less regular presence in Milan for decades, but it is only recently that a declining trend in numbers has been inverted, much to the delight of luxury brands and store owners in the fashion district.
Intercultural awareness: welcoming tourists in their preferred way
As the increase in tourism (and shopping) in Milan has shown a very specific demographic for quiet some time, Global Blue has been organising events targeted at sales representatives and designed to make Italian personnel aware of cultural differences, in order to make the customers’ shopping experience an overall satisfying and enjoyable one. The Italian salesforce has been trained in basic interactions, like greeting and negotiating, which can look and feel quite different in most Middle-Eastern Countries. This includes things like handshaking – that is generally gentler but longer than in most western Countries, and the avoidance of certain gestures (like the “thumbs up”) that are generally perceived as friendly and normal in our culture, but can come off as rude in others. All of this was part of the latest edition of a program called “Sales Cultural Training Middle East”, targeted specifically at luxury brand store workers.
Tax free shopping in the luxury district
Milan’s world-renowned fashion district is one of the most popular tax free shopping destinations in the world. While Middle-Eastern tourists are technically a minority in Italy – if compared with European and American tourists, their average expense is higher, with an average individual purchase value of over €1000. This has prompted the association that represents all the store owners and managers of the Montenapoleone district to team up with Global Blue, in order to equip their salesforce with the right tool to deal with this particular brand of tourism in a way that is both respectful and welcoming.
Arab tourists and European brands
The love story between Arab tourists and European brands is not a new one: the upper classes of Countries like Oman and the UAE have long shown a passion for European fashion and for Italian brands in particular. As a demographic, they tend to be young and affluent, well-educated and travelling in mixed-gender groups. They are often collectors of beautiful or expensive objects and they are used to receiving the best available treatment everywhere they go. They have a passion for Italian cuisine and are connoisseurs of the most modern trends in food technology. Tourists travelling on their own, generally for business purposes, tend to be older and to invest in objects rather than fashion. Like most tourists, those visiting from Middle-Easter Countries would love more than anything for the staff they interact with to speak their language, but even though that’s a relatively rare occurrence, they will still appreciate sales representatives having taken the time to learn how to greet and interact with them in a safe and respectful way.