This is a big loss to Thailand and Malaysia, especially if this seasonal change turns into a multi-year habit.
As more Chinese tourists are deterred from traveling to traditionally popular destinations such as Malaysia and Vietnam, other East Asian countries are eyeing the world’s biggest spenders.
Singapore — the neighbour of Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, whose Chinese visitors have sharply decreased due to the anti-China violence and disturbances — is beefing up its local tourism promotion amid China’s ever-expanding outbound tourism industry.
“Singapore has been seeing increasing Chinese visitors in the past few years, and we aim at attracting more tourists, because fewer are heading to other traditional East Asian destinations,” said Derek Tay Hock Guan, managing director of Lex Travel Pte Ltd, a travel agency in Singapore.
Singapore, with its Chinese-friendly atmosphere, including the Chinese-speaking citizens, familiar food and road signs in Chinese everywhere, is thought to attract more visitors.
The Singapore tourism authority has also been actively cooperating with Chinese travel agencies, including Beijing-based Caissa Travel Agency, to better promote the tour packages in China.
Due to the negative impression of the disappearance on March 8 of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, Chinese visitors to Malaysia, a once popular destination, have drastically declined.
The anti-China violence in Vietnam and disturbances in the Philippines and Thailand have also given the other short-haul destinations, such as Singapore, a chance to attract more visitors from the biggest spenders on overseas travel.
Beijing resident He Xiaowen, 26, has just come back from her honeymoon in Singapore after cancelling a trip to Thailand.
“My family are worried about the disturbances in Thailand,” she said. “Considering the length of vacation and budget, Singapore is the best option for us.”
According to the Singaporean tourism authority, the Lion City attracted 2.27 million Chinese visitors in 2013, a 12 percent year-on-year increase.
Those visitors spent $2.4 billion, 18 per cent more than in 2012.
Agencies nationwide are reporting declining visits to Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia and sharp increases in visitors to Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
The Singaporean tourism authority said with the easier visa policy and more frequent and direct flights, it is believed more Chinese tourists will visit the island country.
Derek Tay Hock Guan said Singapore intends to get visitors to stay longer than the one day they stayed in the traditional Thailand-Singapore-Malaysia itineraries.
“We are mainly focusing on the young visitors in their 20s and 30s, with shorter vacation time who can go only to short-haul destinations like Singapore,” he said.