Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore to lure tourists from China with visa-free travel |  trip

Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore to lure tourists from China with visa-free travel | trip

Chinese engineer and aviation enthusiast Wei Meng is exactly the type of visitor that tourism authorities in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are looking for.

Travelers check departure flight information on a screen at Beijing Capital International Airport. Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore hope to lure tourists from China with visa-free travel. (File photo by REUTERS/Florence Lo)

After Singapore lifted visas for Chinese citizens, Wei, 44, said he abandoned plans to go to Australia and booked a six-day holiday there. He said he also looked at visiting Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, the other two Southeast Asian countries visa-free, but decided on the city-state because of the Singapore Air Show, which opens to the public on February 24.

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As thousands of Chinese prepare to head abroad for the first Spring Festival holiday since Beijing lifted pandemic travel restrictions last year, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia hope their unprecedented visa waivers will lure a large swath of these visitors – and their much needed expenses.

Chinese travelers often complain about the length and hassle it takes them to obtain travel visas, and their passport is 62nd in the Henley Passport Index, which ranks passports of 199 countries by the number of destinations their holders are without can have access. a prior visa.

While the visa waiver could make it a more attractive destination, China’s slowing economic growth, job insecurity and falling incomes this year are likely to dampen any foreign travel, analysts say.

“There is a sense that economic difficulties and a lack of disposable income are hitting much harder than in other parts of the world and that any travel is therefore staying within China where costs are lower,” said John Grant, chief analyst at the firm. of travel data. ZAP, adding that the three Southeast Asian countries “may be looking for leaks.”

BIG SPENDERS

Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists were a vital source of revenue, accounting for more than a quarter of all holidaymakers in Thailand in 2019. Chinese visitors were also the biggest spenders in Singapore, spending over US$4 billion (3 billion dollars) as many years.

Although fewer Chinese are traveling than before the pandemic, Chinese make up the bulk of visitors to Thailand, which began visa-free travel in September, and tourism authorities there say they expect 177,000 Chinese tourists for the Lunar New Year holiday. more than three times 2023 levels.

“Management has been good since the visa-free program,” said Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, deputy governor at the Tourism Authority of Thailand. “It’s starting to return to pre-pandemic levels.”

Malaysia’s visa-free deal for Chinese began in December and it hopes to attract 5-7 million Chinese visitors this year, which would be almost double pre-pandemic levels.

For the Lunar New Year, hotels including those under The Ascott Limited group are launching promotions such as discounts and special activities and food for the festival.

Due to its status as an Asian air traffic hub, Singapore is ahead of its Southeast Asian rivals in flying Chinese visitors, with the number of direct flights connecting mainland China rising nearly 5% this month from the same month. in 2019.

Both Malaysia and Thailand still have far fewer direct flights: 33% and 17% less than 2019 levels respectively, data from aviation analytics firm Cirium shows.

($1 = 35.5200 baht) ($1 = 1.3428 Singapore dollars)

This story was published by an electronic agency source without text modifications. Only the title has been changed.

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