STB woos travellers from China via Alibaba travel arm

There may soon be more free and independent travellers from China heading to Singapore, with the aid of a leading online travel service platform.

Alitrip, the travel arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, announced a tie-up with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the tourism sector here yesterday.

The collaboration, Alitrip's first with an overseas destination, works with airlines, hotels and businesses at tourist attractions here to set up retail outlets on its platform.

Apartment operator Ascott, Resorts World Sentosa and Six Stars Tours and Services have already set up stores on the site. Talks with Singapore Airlines and Tigerair are under way. Alitrip is also working with local malls and restaurants, as well as duty-free store DFS, to offer discounts and promotions.

Alitrip's innovations, including allowing travellers with a high credit rating to stay at hotels without a deposit, will soon be rolled out here.

With its big data infrastructure, the site will also offer insights to influence the marketing decisions of businesses and the STB.

The partnership is one of several inked in recent times by STB, which is also working with Chinese partners, such as online travel service platform Tuniu, and online review sites Dianping and Mafengwo.

"Chinese visitors today are more sophisticated and discerning. They look for authentic and in-depth experiences that showcase the multifaceted character of Singapore," said STB chief technology officer Quek Choon Yang.

In 2014, 63 per cent of Chinese visitors to Singapore were independent travellers. China's visitor arrivals to Singapore fell by 24 per cent to 1.72 million in 2014 from the year before, following factors such as the enactment of China's tourism lawand aviation incidents. But the numbers are climbing: In the first 10 months of last year, some 1.8 million Chinese tourists came here, a year-on-year growth of 21 per cent.

China is Singapore's second-largest contributor to international visitor arrivals after Indonesia.

Alitrip president Li Shaohua said Singapore was chosen as its first overseas partner due to factors, including its popularity among Chinese tourists, rich tourism resources and streamlined visa procedures.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'STB woos travellers from China via Alibaba travel arm'. Print Edition | Subscribe