SINGAPORE: After the visa-free agreement between Singapore and China began implementation on Friday (Feb 9), the eve of the Chinese New Year, Singapore has seen a surge in the volume of CNY bookings.

According to travel platform trip.com, Chinese New Year bookings to Singapore are 206 times higher than two years ago, reported by the Singapore Business Review on Feb 12. And 47 per cent of the bookings had been made by families.

Starting from Feb 9, Chinese citizens have been allowed to enter Singapore without visas for business and vacation trips for as long as 30 days. Individuals who wish to stay longer must still obtain a visa before entry, as do those whose activities require prior approval.

Trip.com predicted recently that compared to 2023, Singapore would see a 46.8 per cent uptick in inbound travel during this Chinese New Year season, along with a 108.6 per cent rise in total trip expenditure for inbound bookings for this season.

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Last week, The Straits Times reported that interest in travel between Singapore and China had increased after the Jan 25 announcement of the visa-free travel arrangement, citing travel agencies, airlines, and booking sites.

A surge of Chinese tourists is expected to come not just to Singapore but also to other Southeast Asian countries with similar mutual visa-free agreements, including Malaysia and Thailand, especially given that this is the first Spring Festival—or Chinese New Year—that tourists from China will be allowed to travel freely since the Covid-19 pandemic began four years ago.

“Chinese travelers 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,” reported the Hindustan Times on Feb 9.

China’s English-language Global Times reported at the end of January that bookings to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand had gone up by 15 per cent.

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Last December, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong announced that the visa-free agreement with China was underway, noting that flights between Singapore and China were nearly at the level before the pandemic as relations have progressed.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore also said that MAS and the People’s Bank of China were working on a pilot programme for travellers from China and Singapore to use China’s e-CNY digital currency in the two countries.

“The 30-day mutual visa exemption arrangement between our two countries will also support such progress, which can promote more personnel exchanges and strengthen the cornerstone of bilateral relations,” said DPM Wong. /TISG

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