Singapore launches own 'Golden Week' sale to court China tourists

People cross a road in Singapore's shopping district, Orchard Road.
People cross a road in Singapore's shopping district, Orchard Road.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Singapore now has its own shopping version of Golden Week that could help woo Chinese tourists traveling abroad during a week-long national holiday in China.

Brands from Estee Lauder to Nike to Samsonite are offering discounts in Singapore starting Friday (Sepy 30), coinciding with China's National Day public holidays. The promotions are aimed at grabbing a slice of the more than half a billion Chinese who are expected to travel domestically and overseas for the annual holiday that starts Oct 1.

Singapore is trying to revive its flagging retail industry, where sales excluding motor vehicles have fallen in ten of the past 12 months. During the promotion period, malls such as those owned by Southeast Asia's biggest developer CapitaLand, and Hong Kong's Sun Hung Kai Properties will offer lucky draws and free limousine rides to users of UnionPay, China's card- payment equivalent of Visa and MasterCard.

"Chinese visitors remain very important to the retail industry," said R Dhinakaran, chairman of the Singapore Retail Association, an industry group that's organizing Singapore Golden Week with China UnionPay Co. The event is intended to "heighten the appeal of Singapore" for local and foreign users of the card, he said in an e-mail.

An estimated 589 million Chinese will travel overseas and domestically for leisure during the upcoming holiday period, according to a report by the China Tourism Academy. About 135 million of them had traveled out of mainland China in the 12 months through June 30. Singapore was number 7 on the list of the top destinations, lagging behind countries including Thailand, South Korea and Japan.

Singapore's newly created promotion will face competition. It will need to contend with the Korea Grand Sale, which takes place the entire month of October. South Korea's capital Seoul is the number one destination for tourists on group and and self-guided tours during China's Golden Week, according to the largest Chinese travel website Ctrip.com International.

South Korea's sales event has the edge over Singapore's as it is better-known, and is a shorter distance from China, according to Ctrip's senior director for investor relations Zhou Shiwei, who said he hadn't heard of Singapore's Golden Week. "We are working in a travel company, and it's not even that well-known."

Those who do arrive in Singapore have also been spending less at shops, data from the Singapore Tourism Board showed. While visitor arrivals from China have grown annually, Chinese spending has fallen, accounting for 44 per cent of tourism receipts in the first quarter of the year from 53 per cent in the same period in 2012.

Singapore's newest promotion is "obviously an attempt to bring Chinese mainlanders back to Singapore," said Claire Mula, co-founder of Singapore-based Sprooki, which provides mobile marketing technology for retailers. With other markets making similar efforts, "the challenge now is how do you differentiate the Singapore shopping experience."