SINGAPORE - Travellers from China are swarming the world and Singapore is seeing them in record numbers.
Singapore welcomed 1.24 million Chinese visitors for the first half of last year, a hefty 27 per cent rise from the same period the previous year.
And for the first time, the Chinese emerged the biggest spenders, overtaking Indonesian visitors.
Singapore Tourism Board (STB) figures show that Chinese visitors spent almost $1.52 billion in the first half of last year, 3 per cent more than Indonesians. This excludes what they spent on sightseeing and entertainment.
Just four years ago, Indonesian visitors chalked up nearly $1 billion more in tourism receipts than Chinese visitors. Indonesians had been the biggest-spending visitors here since 2007.
Singapore is getting a slice of a huge and ever-growing tourism pie and industry players here - like those in several other destinations - are racing to find ways to roll out the red carpet.
The potential is staggering.
A total of 97 million travellers left China last year, up 14 million from the year before, according to official data reported by the China Daily last month.
China tourism officials expect the number of Chinese travellers to exceed 100 million this year and surpass 400 million in 2018.
As for their spending power, latest estimates indicate that Chinese travellers will spend a total of US$129 billion (S$163 billion) worldwide this year alone.
No wonder then, that hotels across the US are including special touches just to make these guests feel welcome, that breakfast buffets in Sydney hotels now feature congee as a staple, and the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore has begun sending some non-Chinese staff for conversational Mandarin classes.
Tourism industry players in Singapore say that unlike in the past, when Chinese visitors arrived mainly on group tours for two-day shopping trips, they are now coming on their own, staying longer and spending more.
Dr Michael Chiam, a senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said: "They tend to splurge on luxury products and are willing to spend on gourmet food."
Mr Edward Chew, regional director for Greater China at the Singapore Tourism Board, is optimistic that Singapore will continue to attract visitors from China and remain one of the top destinations for Chinese travellers.
University student Guo Na, 23, from China's Shaanxi province, was here for a six-day holiday last week and found the city "clean and beautiful".
The first-time visitor said: "I'm most impressed that citizens find it safe enough to leave their homes at 3am or 4am."
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