Commentary: Visa waiver deal puts Singapore in good stead to attract the coveted Chinese

China’s travel agency giants expect visa exemption to keep Singapore attractive beyond the seasonal jumpstart.

“If we look at the areas that have been doing very well over the past year, the first are GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries in the Middle East. Qatar and Dubai have favourable visa policies and make arrival convenient; other nations have online visa application procedures that are convenient and easy.

“Now that Singapore and China will be implementing reciprocal visa-free travel, we certainly see more Chinese travellers choosing to visit Singapore due to the increased convenience,” Mr Edmund Ong, general manager of Singapore, told me.


It may appear, wishfully, that China is finally unleashing its revenge travellers in full force. But China’s economic troubles are too big to ignore.

The slow return of outbound travel was largely attributed to China’s disappointing economic restart coming out of the pandemic. As of September 2023, Chinese outbound tourism expenditure was still down 18 per cent from pre-pandemic levels, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Economic forecasts for 2024 have only gotten worse, with various experts projecting China’s GDP growth to slow from 5.2 per cent in 2023 to between 4 and 4.6 per cent in 2024.

The country cannot conceivably get out of its litany of economic troubles any time soon: A serious deflation spiral, record drops in salaries, a property market crisis, high youth unemployment rates – and the list goes on.


In this climate, perhaps the foremost question is not where, but how the Chinese would be travelling in 2024.

Already emerging is a picture of the prudent Chinese traveller, mediating economic anxieties while they vacation – whether by planning their academic journey overseas, or hitting multiple destinations to stretch the flight buck.

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