China-S’pore flights at only 10% of pre-pandemic levels; more expected by end-2023

The number of Chinese tourists travelling to Singapore for the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday shows a 499 per cent year-on-year rise. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) expects Chinese tourist arrivals in 2023 to be 30 per cent to 60 per cent of the pre-Covid-19 pandemic numbers of about 3.6 million visitors a year from China.

This will largely depend on the speed at which China allows outbound travel, as well as the pace at which flights between Singapore and China resume, said STB’s assistant chief executive of international group, Ms Juliana Kua.

At an STB briefing on Tuesday, Ms Kua said that as at January, there are 38 weekly flights from Singapore to China – less than 10 per cent of the hundreds of direct flights to more than 20 Chinese cities every week pre-pandemic.

“One thing we are watching very closely is how quickly air capacity ramps up,” she said.

She also noted China’s announcement in December that outbound travel will recover in a “calibrated and careful manner”.

“We are awaiting further announcements and signals as to what that actually will mean in terms of bringing back outbound Chinese travel,” she said.

Ms Kua said that among the different kinds of Chinese tourists are these two types – those who travel in smaller groups and go for customised itineraries, and those looking for “deeper experiences” that go beyond ticking things off a bucket list.

“Singapore is very well placed to attract those customers,” she said.

Chinese visitors made up the bulk of arrivals pre-pandemic, and it is apparent that they are keen to come here. “In the media, you see that Singapore is in the top 10 among desirable places for Chinese travellers to go to once they are comfortable about travelling again,” said Ms Kua.

According to figures from travel service provider Trip.com, which runs Chinese-language travel platform Ctrip, the number of Chinese tourists travelling to Singapore for the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday shows a 499 per cent year-on-year rise.

Trip.com figures show Singapore is among the top five South-east Asian countries for mainland Chinese tourists booking holidays for the Chinese New Year season, alongside Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia.

A small proportion of Chinese visitors are already streaming into Singapore on business trips.

Among them is Ms Ni Yi, 36, a Shanghai entrepreneur who is on a four-day trip to attend business meetings here.

She was spotted taking photos at the Merlion Park on Monday with her colleagues. She also visited Chinatown to buy snacks.

She said in Mandarin: “It has been a while since most of us have travelled overseas, so many of my friends and family in Shanghai are already here or are making plans to come to Singapore to travel, both for leisure and business.”

  • Additional reporting by Thomas Loke

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