Will Singapore win the battle for Chinese tourists amid China’s decoupling from US and the world?
- With all the talk about ‘Cold War II’, Chinese tourists will likely go only where they feel safe and welcomed when travel restrictions are lifted
- A study ranked the US as having the lowest safety perception among Chinese travellers. Top of the list? Singapore
As far as global forks in the road go, there’s not much that can compete with the coronavirus pandemic. It has affected almost everyone, upended almost every industry and amplified geopolitical issues, among them China’s decoupling from the
United States and, some argue, from the wider world.
Usually discussed in terms of trade, when the barricaded borders of mainland China eventually reopen – post Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the latest, please – there could be another element to this international disengagement: the flow of the country’s tourists.
According to the European Travel Commission’s “long-haul travel barometer”, published in June, which “provides forward-looking information about short-term travel trends among potential travellers from Brazil, China, Japan, Russia and the US” to the continent, there was “a particularly weak travel sentiment in […] China”, with only 26 per cent of Chinese respondents expressing confidence in travelling to Europe.
America appears to evoke the same reaction. A recent study that looked into Chinese traveller sentiment, released by digital marketing company Dragon Trail International, found that perceptions about the safety of overseas destinations have declined over the past six months, with the US remaining “the country with the lowest safety perception, rated by 87% as ‘unsafe’”.
The report also looked at what exactly might motivate Chinese travellers to venture abroad again, and it’s not good news for destinations with whom China doesn’t enjoy rosy relations: 76 per cent said that official travel advice was the most important factor when it comes to foreign forays. In recent years, China has issued travel warnings against nations such as Australia, South Korea and Canada, often provoked, it seems, by political spats rather than actual conditions on the ground in those countries.
Respondents also said that “Having zero or low infection numbers in the destination [60 per cent], no quarantine on arrival in the destination [56 per cent], and being fully vaccinated in China [52 per cent]” were important elements when considering international travel. So that rules out just about everywhere apart from Macau and
This hasn’t stopped destinations from hoping, waiting, longing for the return of Chinese tourists, though. In an upbeat August interview with website Jing Culture & Commerce, Eduardo Santander, CEO of the European Travel Commission, spoke of his optimism for “future Chinese travellers to Europe”.
However, some things will be different, says Santander: “Whistle-stop bus tours covering half a dozen European countries in as many days will no longer dominate” as they will be “replaced by a new mode of slower, interest-based travel, often to lesser-known destinations”.
With an absence of such attractions, western Europe and the US might not see travellers from the Middle Kingdom in the numbers they were accustomed to pre-pandemic, regardless of the allure of their lesser-known sights.
Meanwhile, intensifying chatter concerning Cold War II and the isolationism that accompanies a decoupling could mean that even when travel restrictions are lifted, Chinese tourists will go only where they feel safe and welcomed. And if the Dragon Trai report is indicative of wider attitudes, that means Singapore, which ranked as “the safest outbound destination beyond Greater China”.
It might not have Ningxia’s communist history, nor be a lesser-known destination, but the city state enjoys solid relations with Beijing, and perhaps that’s all that will matter in a post-Covid-19 world.
Hong Kong gears up for starring role in K-dramas
In a statement, Tourism Board chairman Pang Yiu-kai said: “Our aim is to feature Hong Kong in popular K-drama and variety shows. This will help reinforce Hong Kong’s status as one of the world’s most exciting and interesting destinations when international travel resumes.
“We anticipate competition for tourists will be intense once the pandemic is over, and the HKTB is therefore getting a head start to secure influential media partners for maintaining Hong Kong’s visibility.”
Take that, Nicole Kidman!
Phu Quoc, Vietnam, pushes back reopening amid lack of vaccines
The reopening of the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc has been pushed back to November “after failing to meet targets for inoculating residents due to insufficient vaccine supplies”, Reuters reported on September 24.
Tourism operators in Phu Quoc had been expecting vaccinated tourists to return from October, when it was thought that all residents would be fully vaccinated. However, local officials said an additional 250,000 to 300,000 doses were needed to achieve herd immunity, according to Reuters.
“Authorities said Phu Quoc would have a phased reopening over six months starting on November 20, with up to three chartered flights touching down per week. Under the plan, the island expects to welcome 3,000-5,000 visitors” during a trial period of six months. “It remained unclear if visitors will have to undergo a seven-day quarantine period as requested by Vietnam’s health ministry.”