GSS: Move to woo China tourists yet to pay off

Shoppers along Orchard Road on Sept 28, 2016.
Shoppers along Orchard Road on Sept 28, 2016. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

This year's Great Singapore Sale (GSS) tried to change things by focusing on tourists from China.

Lasting from June 3 to Aug 14, it began a week later than last year's and ran for 10 weeks instead of eight. This allowed it to coincide with the bulk of China's summer holidays.

The sale's organiser, the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), also roped in Chinese payments firm UnionPay International as a partner, instead of American firm MasterCard, which was the official GSS card for the last 12 years.

The changes, said the SRA, were meant to increase the reach and attractiveness of the GSS.

But the changes have yet to bear fruit, as retail sales excluding motor vehicles for June and July each fell 3 per cent, compared to the same months last year.

According to Mr Edward Chew, Singapore Tourism Board's former regional director for Greater China, the SRA's partnership with UnionPay International needs time to develop. In the initial period, "it would be a simpler arrangement where they promote each other's brands and key messages", said Mr Chew, now a tourism consultant.

For now, wooing the Chinese during their summer vacation contributes to Singapore's attraction as a family destination, he added.

Last year, 2.1 million people from China visited Singapore, up 22 per cent from 2014's 1.7 million, making China the second-largest visitor market after Indonesia.

Although their expenditure of $2.54 billion last year was a 4 per cent dip from 2014, the Chinese were still the top spenders in Singapore. Most notably, the proportion they spent on shopping - 45 per cent - was also the highest among tourists here.

Melissa Lin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 02, 2016, with the headline 'GSS: Move to woo China tourists yet to pay off'. Print Edition | Subscribe