Sunday, March 3, 2024

Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore hope to attract Chinese tourists

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  • Reuters, Singapore, Bangkok

Wei Ming, a Chinese engineer and aviation enthusiast, is exactly the kind of tourist that tourism authorities in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are looking for.

Mr Wei, 44, said he had scrapped plans to go to Australia and booked a six-day holiday there instead after Singapore abolished visas for Chinese nationals. He said he considered visiting Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, two other Southeast Asian countries that do not require visas, but chose the city-state because of the Singapore Air Show, which opens to the public on February 24.

Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia are experiencing unprecedented travel as thousands of Chinese prepare to travel abroad for the first Chinese New Year holiday since the Chinese government lifted coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions last year. The hope is that the visa waiver will attract a large proportion of these tourists. -Necessary expenditures.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Chinese travelers often complain about the time and hassle it takes to obtain a travel visa, and a Chinese passport can hold passports from 199 countries depending on the number of destinations the holder can access without a passport. It is ranked 62nd in the Henry Passport Index. advance visa.

Analysts say visa waivers could make the destination more attractive, but China’s slow economic growth, job uncertainty and declining incomes are likely to dampen international travel this year.

John Grant, principal analyst at the travel data firm, said: “There is a sense that economic hardship and lack of disposable income are having a much more severe impact than in other parts of the world, making travel more expensive.” It remains in China, where it is cheap.” OAG added that the three Southeast Asian countries “may be seeking information piecemeal.”

Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists were an important source of income, accounting for more than a quarter of all holidaymakers to Thailand in 2019. Chinese tourists were also the biggest spenders in Singapore, wasting more than S$4 billion (US$3 billion). Same year.

Although fewer Chinese people are traveling than before the pandemic, the majority of tourists to Thailand, which began offering visa exemptions last September, are Chinese, and Thai tourism authorities say more than 17 people are traveling during the Lunar New Year holiday. It said 7,000 Chinese tourists are expected. 3 times the level of last year.

Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said, “Since the visa-free program, we are moving in a positive direction.” “We are starting to get back to pre-pandemic levels.”

Malaysia’s visa-free deal for Chinese people began in December last year and the country hopes to attract 5 million to 7 million Chinese tourists this year, almost double the pre-pandemic number.

In the run-up to the Lunar New Year holiday, hotels, including those in the Ascott Limited group, are launching promotions including discounts, special activities and refreshments for the festival.

Its status as Asia’s air traffic hub has put Singapore ahead of its Southeast Asian rivals in influx of Chinese tourists, with the number of direct flights connecting mainland China increasing by 5 this month compared to the same month in 2019. increased by nearly %.

Malaysia and Thailand still have far fewer direct flights, 33% and 17% fewer than 2019 levels, respectively, according to data from aviation analytics firm Cirium.

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