More S'poreans spending CNY abroad

While many of her friends were getting ready for Chinese New Year a week ago, student Zhuo Shi Lin, 17, and her family were on a plane bound for Melbourne.

To enjoy Chinese New Year in a different way, her family spent the festive holiday hiking at Grampians National Park and shopping at Harbour Town.

"Going overseas during Chinese New Year is a family tradition as it is usually difficult for my parents to take annual leave for family vacations," she said.

Two major travel agencies said they have seen more Singaporeans go on overseas holidays during this Chinese New Year, like the Zhuos, compared with last year.

At Dynasty Travel, the increase this year was 20 per cent, said Ms Alice Seah, 51, its director of public relations and communications. Eight in 10 are Chinese Singaporeans.

Chan Brothers Travel also saw a similar increase. "Sales increased by 10 per cent as compared with last year, with the majority of our customers being Chinese," said Ms Jane Chang, its head of marketing communications.

These figures exclude Chinese nationals visiting relatives in China.

Better flight connectivity and discounted tour packages were some reasons drawing more Singaporeans overseas during the Chinese festive period, said tour agencies.

Among the special Chinese New Year tour packages was a two-day trip to Batam by WTS Travel & Tours which cost $88, from the usual $99 to $128.

Another factor this year was the unusual four-day weekend.

"Singaporeans usually seize the opportunity to plan a trip overseas if they can enjoy a week-long trip with taking just a few days' leave," said Mr Steven Lek, executive director of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore.

Another factor was the strength of the Singapore dollar against regional currencies, such as the Malaysian ringgit and the Indonesian rupiah, he added. Currently, one Singdollar is equivalent to RM3 and about 10,000 Indonesian rupiah.

Some Singaporeans also travel for the cultural experience.

"We wanted to be immersed in the New Year spirit in China, to feel what it is like in the native country," said Mr Lim Thian Loong, 47, executive director of business group PT Natbour Resources, who visited Guangzhou, China, from Feb 5 to 9.

Student Don Teo, 20, who went to Bangkok during the festive period, said: "This is my first time spending Chinese New Year overseas and it may become a practice in future."

There are also those who absolutely will not travel during this season.

"Chinese New Year is a special occasion for us to catch up with our extended family. This should be prioritised over holiday plans," said student Jobeth Seow, 19.

But Chan Brothers' Ms Chang said family bonding can take place overseas.

"We do not think that the tradition of family reunions over Chinese New Year is eroding. More so, the reunion has taken on a different form these days, in the mode of bonding abroad," she said.

This article was first published on 12 February, 2016.
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