Visitors from China top spenders in Singapore for second year running

Chinese tourists at Merlion Park. The Hotels.com survey found that when choosing a holiday destination, safety was paramount to Chinese travellers. They also tended to prioritise destinations with historical and heritage value, and those that offer a
Chinese tourists at Merlion Park. The Hotels.com survey found that when choosing a holiday destination, safety was paramount to Chinese travellers. They also tended to prioritise destinations with historical and heritage value, and those that offer activities on their bucket list.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

S'pore is Asia-Pacific city they most want to visit; shopping no longer the main draw: Poll

Tourist destinations worldwide are seeing a boom in Chinese tourists, and Singapore is no exception.

Data from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) shows that visitors from China spent an estimated $3.52 billion here last year, a 39 per cent or nearly $1 billion increase from 2015.

This was the second year in a row that China has emerged as Singapore's top-spending market, beating out Indonesia, which has traditionally been the top spender. There were 2.86 million Chinese visitors last year, up 36 per cent from 2015.

Going by the results of a survey of over 3,000 Chinese travellers by online travel booking site Hotels.com released yesterday, the tide of Chinese tourists will not be ebbing soon. It found that Singapore is the top city in the Asia-Pacific that Chinese travellers want to visit in the next 12 months. This was followed by Sydney, while third place was shared by Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Australia's Gold Coast.

Hotels.com commissioned Ipsos to carry out the survey in April and May this year of people aged 18 to 57 who had travelled overseas in the past 12 months.

The survey found that when choosing a holiday destination, safety was paramount to Chinese travellers. They also tended to prioritise destinations with historical and heritage value, and those that offer activities on their bucket list.

Singapore ticks all the right boxes as it has a reputation as a safe city and boasts a colourful heritage and "a kaleidoscope of cultures", said Hotels.com.

  • 122m 

    Number of outbound Chinese tourists last year, up 74 per cent from 2011. 

  • 2.86m 

    Number of Chinese visitors who came to Singapore last year, up 36 per cent from 2015.

"Taking a selfie at the infinity pool of Marina Bay Sands is likely to be part of Chinese travellers' bucket list," it added. They also liked that many Singaporeans can speak Mandarin and there was easy access to Chinese food.

According to STB data, the growth in Chinese tourists has been fuelled by a rise in tourists from secondary cities in China.

The survey report also highlighted the enormous potential for growth in the number of Chinese travellers and their spending power.

  • Other findings

  • • About one-third of Chinese travellers will not leave home without their selfie stick.

    • Chinese travellers spent an average of US$3,623 (S$4,950) on travel in the last 12 months - over a quarter of their income. The top three areas they spent the most on daily when travelling were dining, sightseeing, and rest and relaxation.

    • Older Chinese travellers are travelling farther and opting for more adventurous travel, such as backpacking.

    Melissa Lin

Last year, there were 122 million outbound Chinese tourists - a staggering 74 per cent more than in 2011 - but just 10 per cent of the Chinese population had passports.

And those with passports are travelling for longer periods and spending more. The average length of their trips increased in the past year from five days to seven days, while their average spending - inclusive of accommodation - rose from US$414 (S$565) to US$446.

Despite many key indicators providing signs of a slowdown in the Chinese economy, the report found that spending on travel increased across all age brackets.

In the next 12 months, the Chinese travellers surveyed said they intend to spend an average 10 per cent more on travel.

Interestingly, shopping is no longer the main attraction for them. Instead, they value leisure, experiences, and exploring local culture and heritage. Spending on eco and green tours, for instance, has risen 12 per cent over the past year.

Senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Michael Chiam noted that in place of shopping, Chinese tourists to Singapore are spending on food and beverage instead.

He added that Singapore could do more to highlight its local lifestyle, heritage and culture. "The free and independent Chinese tourists are a little more adventurous," he said. "They like to explore nooks and corners of Singapore which are outside the usual tourist belt to experience local lifestyles, such as venturing into Geylang for durians."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'Visitors from China top spenders - $3.5b in 2016'. Print Edition | Subscribe