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Tourism and Shopping

The extant literature reports on the existence of two different types of shopping: shopping for necessities and pleasure shopping. In this study, we focus on pleasure shopping and, within this area, tourists’ pleasure shopping. While there is a rich literature on pleasure shopping, we need to keep in mind that shopping while traveling may be different from shopping in the hometown (Timothy 2005). Even those who do not normally shop at home could become avid shoppers when traveling away from home (Anderson and Littrell 1995), and this should not be seen as an exception, but rather as a general trend (Tasci and Denizci 2010).

When shopping is the primary purpose for travel, the activity is called “shopping tourism” and when the main purpose for travel is different—and shopping is done only as a secondary activity, once the tourist is there, it is called “tourist shopping” (Timothy 2005). However, Michalko (2004) suggested that tourists who spend at least half of their budget on shopping be considered “shopping tourists,” regardless of their primary motivation for travel.

Shopping is the main reason to travel for millions of people every year. Timothy (2005) argued that there are three important reasons people would travel away from home specifically to shop: to buy something that is not available in local retail outlets, to take advantage of lower prices, and to visit a location that is known for its diversity of shopping opportunities.

A particular form of shopping-induced tourism is cross-border shopping tourism. Cross-border shopping tourism refers to situations in which people travel to neighboring countries with the primary purpose of buying goods for personal use or to be resold in the community for a profit. For example, in Central and Eastern Europe, a great deal of the cross-border shopping trips is undertaken to purchase goods that could be resold in the tourists’ countries (Timothy 2005; William and Balaz 2002), which Smith (1997) labeled as “bazaar capitalism.” Some cross-border shoppers may even resort to smuggling (Radu 2009). In general, most of these shoppers live close to the border and visit places that are within easy driving distance; hence, it could be considered a one-day activity. Based on the definition of tourism, most of these cross-border travels should not be classified as tourism, as these visitors do not usually stay overnight, but Timothy (2005:54) argued that this activity should be considered a form of tourism because “people travel abroad, spend money, use the tourism infrastructure, and are often counted as international arrivals by official governmental agencies.” Moreover, there are also many situations when shopping trips could take several days and be combined with other tourist activities (Timothy 2005).

Cross-border shopping trips are motivated by lower prices, the availability of a wider range of products and services, favorable currency exchange rates, advantageous tax rates, longer opening hours, proximity to the border, and cultural similarities (including knowledge of the language) (Timothy 2001; Bar-Kolelis and Wiskulski 2012; Spierings and van der Velde 2008). Often times, tourists are attracted to shop across the border by international or famous national brands which are not available or are more expensive in their hometown (Lukic 2012; Murphy et al. 2011; Hurriyet Daily News 2010). In addition, many countries allow for the value-added tax (VAT) to be deducted from the price of goods purchased if the latter exceeds a certain amount. Such is the case in Bulgaria, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina (Peric Zimonjic 2012), or Turkey (Trend News Agency 2010), among others. This transforms such countries into important targets for cross-border shopping tourism.

Most often, however, shopping is not the main motivation for travel, but an important leisure activity once there (Timothy 2005). Tourists may engage in shopping while traveling to break the routine or to experience a different culture. For the latter reason, they may also choose to buy products that are unique to the destination location or are rare elsewhere. Tourists also like to purchase souvenirs to preserve the memory of the places visited, as well as gifts for friends and relatives (Timothy 2005; Timothy and Butler 1995a, b; Moscardo 2004).

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