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Singapore is ‘top Asian spot’ for Chinese tourists

Singapore is ahead of the game when it comes to wooing travelers from China, coming out tops among Asian countries in a recent survey.

And it plans to stay there, with the Singapore Tourism Board and hotels finding new ways to attract the Chinese, who are the biggest spenders in world tourism.

A poll of 3,000 residents from the world’s most populous country found that 23 percent wanted to visit Singapore within the next year. That placed it sixth after Australia (39 percent), France, New Zealand, the United States and Switzerland.
People dine at a restaurant in Chinatown in Singapore. (Bloomberg)
People dine at a restaurant in Chinatown in Singapore. (Bloomberg)

The second-most popular Asian destination was Hong Kong with 21 percent.

The global online survey, conducted in May, also revealed that Chinese preferred sightseeing (75 percent) most of all, followed by dining (65 percent) and shopping (51 percent). Asia-Pacific managing director Johan Svanstrom said the numbers explain Singapore’s popularity. “Singapore is absolutely one of the better places in terms of sightseeing, dining and shopping. There’s lots of choice, not just local food but truly international cuisine,” he said, adding that the two gaming resorts and the use of Mandarin locally also helped boost numbers.

And it helps that Singapore’s visa application process is hassle-free, said STB regional director for Greater China Edward Chew.

Jiangxi resident Wei Jun, 59, who is on her first visit to Singapore, said: “It’s so clean here and I am not so adventurous with food, so I am happy there is Chinese food here. And when I get lost, I can ask people for directions. Everyone speaks Mandarin.”

Visitors from China have consistently been Singapore’s second-biggest group of tourists, after Indonesians. In 2009, nearly 940,000 Chinese visited Singapore, according to STB. This jumped to around 1.17 million in 2010, then 1.578 million in 2011. In the first nine months of last year, there were 1.515 million Chinese visitors ― staying on track to beating 2011’s record.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Chinese travelers spent $102 billion on international tourism last year ― a 40 percent jump from 2011 ― overtaking Germany and the U.S. as the world’s biggest spenders.

Global interest in the Chinese market underscores its potential.

Tourism Australia doubled its marketing budget for China last year; the length of visitor visas for Chinese tourists to New Zealand has been extended; and Spain plans to attract 1 million Chinese tourists by 2020. STB also launched a new marketing campaign in 2011, called “New Discoveries,” to engage the Chinese audience.

Hotels are also gearing up.

Since last year, cheongsam-clad staff at Orchard Hotel, where 10 percent of guests are Chinese, have been serving arrival cocktails to VIP guests from China.

Conrad Centennial offers Chinese television channels while the Ritz-Carlton plans to launch its own Weibo social-media page by the end of the year.

Royal Plaza on Scotts will soon have a hotel directory and signs in Mandarin, and provide Chinese newspapers in rooms. Its general manager Patrick Fiat, who expects the number of Chinese guests to increase by at least 5 percent annually for the next three years, said: “We want to make sure we capture this market.”

By Jessica Lim

(The Straits Times)