Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia are hoping their visa waivers will lure thousands of Chinese who are preparing to go abroad during the Spring Festival holiday.
Chinese engineer and aviation enthusiast Wei Meng is exactly the kind of visitor the tourism authorities in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are looking for.
After Singapore scrapped visas for Chinese citizens, Wei, 44, said he ditched plans to go to Australia and booked a six-day holiday there instead. He said he also looked into visiting Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, the two other visa-free Southeast Asian countries, but decided on the city-state because of the Singapore Airshow, which opens to the public on Feb 24.
As thousands of Chinese prepare to go abroad during the first Spring Festival holiday since Beijing lifted pandemic travel restrictions last year, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia are hoping their unprecedented visa waivers will lure a large proportion of these visitors - and their much-needed spending.
Chinese travellers often complain about the length of time and the hassle it takes for them to obtain travel visas, and their passport is 62nd on the Henley Passport Index, which ranks the passports of 199 countries according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.
While waiving visas can make a destination more attractive, China's slowing economic growth, job uncertainties and decline in income this year are likely to temper any outbound travel, analysts say.
"There is a feeling that the economic hardships and 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 travel data firm OAG, adding that the three Southeast Asian countries "may be looking for the trickles."
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