China overtakes Indonesia as Singapore's top market for tourists

China was the top market for tourist arrivals to Singapore from January to November last year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's efforts to attract tourists from China's inner cities have reaped rewards, with arrivals from China up by 36 per cent from January to November last year, compared to the same period in 2015.

China has now overtaken Indonesia as the number one market for arrivals to Singapore.

There were over 2.6 million visitors from China from January to November last year, followed by over 2.5 million from Indonesia, and over a million from Malaysia.

Presenting the numbers at a regional tourism forum on Wednesday (Jan 18) executive director of marketing capability at Singapore Tourism Board (STB) Oliver Chong described the rise as "phenomenal".

"This market has been doing really well, good growth in terms of the middle class. So I think that people are more prepared to travel but at the same time it's also due to us expanding our presence, our marketing activities into tier 2 China cities," he said.

In the first half of last year alone, compared to the same period the year before, there was a 70 per cent increase in tourists from "tier 2" China cities like Kunming, Wuhan and Fuzhou.

The STB is also now looking at "tier 3" cities, Mr Chong told reporters ahead of the AseanTourism Forum held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

STB hopes to attract tourists from the tier 3 cities through travel agents, on whom they rely heavily to make their holiday decisions.

"China's potential is huge. It's going to be there for us to unlock. The question is how we want to do that better," said Mr Chong, adding that there are four regional offices in China, which work with travel industry in China to raise awareness of Singapore's leisure offerings like dining venues, shopping options.

The increase in Chinese tourists contributed to a boost in the overall international visitor numbers.

Numbers rose 7.9 per cent for the first 11 months of last year, compared to the same period in 2015. The rise surpassed STB's conservative forecast of zero to 3 per cent year-on-year increase in international arrivals.

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