IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

For Chinese tourists, it's romance of the Lion City

This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 10, 2013 

DISCOVER love anew on a scenic journey to Singapore, following in the footsteps of Taiwanese actress Ariel Lin Yichen, whose romance is rekindled as she explores tourist sights from Gardens by the Bay to Marina Bay Sands.

This is what the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is hoping to inspire, with a micro-movie starring Lin in its "New Discoveries" campaign that aims to entice Chinese travellers, the Lion City's No. 2 source of tourism revenue after Indonesians.

Some 1.5 million Chinese tourists came to Singapore in the first nine months of last year, 23 per cent more than in the previous year, while their combined spending climbed 18 per cent to a record $1.86 billion in the same period.

The full-year figure for 2011 was $2.11 billion, reflecting the growing willingness of Chinese tourists to splurge abroad.

The micro-movie will feature Singapore icons like the Merlion and Risis Orchid, as well as popular food like kaya toast.

A new survey by travel firm Travelzoo Inc showed that Chinese tourists, especially well-educated professionals, plan to spend an average of US$7,117 (S$8,750) on overseas trips this year, 20 per cent more than last year. This was second only to the US$8,867 average spending by Australians.

Indeed, a target group that STB hopes to draw is the more affluent Chinese with annual household incomes of above 200,000 yuan (S$40,000).

Such visitors seek not just a passport stamp but also unique experiences, noted STB Greater China regional director Edward Chew.

"This segment of sophisticated travellers is able and prepared to pay a premium for quality experiences," he said at the micro- movie's official launch in a Beijing cinema yesterday.

The micro-movie, aired on Youku.com and other portals like Sina.com, will reach out to the STB's target audience, who tend to be more media-savvy.

The 20-minute film is a sequel of sorts to the 2011 Taiwan hit drama Wo Ke Neng Bu Hui Ai Ni (In Time With You).

The romantic drama won one of the highest TV ratings in China in 2011, and has so far garnered more than 170 million views on Youku.com, a top video portal.

Many of the original drama's fans are believed to be female viewers aged 18 to 40-plus, who typically have a major influence on their families' travel decisions.

Lin reprises her role from the show in STB's micro-movie, where she returns to Singapore to relive memories of her romance.

Her character will take a stroll at the Botanic Gardens' Orchid Garden, where she gets a close-up look at the Risis flower.

She will also receive her husband's affirmation of love on an underwater message held by scuba-divers outside the SEA Aquarium's Ocean Suite.

"For lovers, it's a great place," Lin said at the launch.

STB has designed special itineraries featuring some of these sights for Chinese tourists, 75 per cent of whom are "free, independent travellers".

The rest are on tours, including clusters of wealthy families who customise their own packages.

Chinese overseas trips will rise 15 per cent this year, according to forecasts by the China Tourism Academy.

STB's Mr Chew said that China is expected to be one of the strongest growth markets in Asia and world tourism.

"We are optimistic that we will continue to see a good flow of visitors from China to Singapore," he said.

graceng@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 10, 2013 

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