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Singapore's 3 steps to capturing 50% Chinese Gen Y, Z visitor share

It's no surprise that Singapore would snap back to nearly 40% of its 2019 Chinese visitor numbers in 2023, as per Singapore Tourism Board numbers. The city-state holds deep cultural ties with China, besides the fact that it's just a globally leading business and leisure destination by any standard. It's safe, fun, rich, just a four-hour flight from Guangzhou, and has historically ranked among the top 3 most popular destinations for Chinese outbound travelers. What's more surprising, however, is how they've managed to draw such a large proportion of Gen Y and Gen Z visitors.

Nearly 50% of all Chinese visitors to Singapore after pandemic restrictions ended were born in the '90s or '00s, according to data from online travel agency Mafengwo. Instead of experimenting with new and niche destinations, younger Chinese travelers have still chosen to stick with Singapore in their 2023 post-pandemic "revenge travel". While many factors drive this trend, like lower levels of disposable income in 2023, high flight ticket prices and visa bottlenecks in long-haul destinations, Singapore's innovative marketing approach deserves particular mention.

So how did Singapore engage younger travelers? Pan Zhengzhi, Chief Representative and Acting Director of the Singapore Tourism Board Greater China, outlines three key points:

  • Diverse Multiculturalism

  • Immersive Content

  • Cross-Platform Collaboration

In a nutshell, Singapore leverages its melting pot of different cultures, experiences and histories with a strong cultural bridge to China to tell unique stories through longer-format, immersive platforms, like podcasts and Douyin documentaries. To open up these experiences fully to Chinese visitors, Singapore partners with Chinese tech platforms, chiefly in payments, to ensure Chinese visitors can seamlessly access unfiltered, authentic Singaporean culture.

Pan Zhengzhi provides more detail below:

Diverse Multiculturalism

In China, as in the rest of the world, younger travelers are looking for meaningful, inspiring travel experiences that break away from conventional tourism. Younger Chinese travelers want to deeply experience the culture of the destination through various forms of immersive experiences, encompassing physical, mental, spiritual, and sensory aspects. Singapore boasts a diverse, multicultural environment, with each ethnic group and culture having its own traditions, customs, and habits. In Singapore, there are festivals almost every month, with the Chinese New Year being one of the most important celebrations, marked as a public holiday with grand parades and traditional float displays.

Using Singapore's inherent multiculturalism with its strong link to Chinese culture, Singapore Tourism Board launched the new brand theme "Made in Singapore, Right Here in Singapore" in November 2023, aiming to provide Chinese tourists with innovative experiences in the Lion City. Through a series of creative tourism experiences, visitors can explore hidden treasures and enjoy diverse attractions, making their Singapore journey extraordinary. This ranges from beachfront entertainment on Sentosa Island, forest bathing and nature therapy, and uniquely-themed coffee shops throughout the city such as Lou Shang, a café themed around Singapore's landmark public housing projects. "The diversity of new attractions and experiences attracts visitors to explore the 'extraordinary' in Singapore's 'ordinary,' says Pan Zhengzhi.

Immersive Content

In the era of diverse, fragmented and visual destination branding, different methods are needed to make a destination stand out. Whether through an article, a short video, or an audio segment, any of these can resonate with young travelers, provided it tells an immersive story about a unique brand. This is why Singapore Tourism Board leans heavily on entertainment and cultural marketing. Previously, the board collaborated with celebrities such as Aarif Rahman and Li Gengxi on in-depth content partnerships, showcasing the diverse charm of Singapore that combines modernity with retro elements, and the blending of urban and natural landscapes, as well as the diversity of Michelin-starred and hawker food.

In October 2023, the travel variety show "I Travel Alone," featuring well-known actor and singer Ma Tianyu, officially debuted on Douyin, exploring the depth of Singapore through relaxing and slow scenes, making the "Made in Singapore, Right Here in Singapore" campaign far more tangible for Chinese younger audiences. "From November to December 2023, we also successively launched a series of Singapore-focused podcasts in collaboration with [Chinese podcasting giant] Ximalaya. In the future, we will continue to collaborate with hand-picked, leading platforms, including [video streaming platform] iQiyi, to release more high-quality, immersive content," Pan stated.

Cross-Platform Collaboration

As early as 2015, leading Chinese payments platform Alipay began gradually integrating into the Singaporean economy. It launched the in-app "Lion City Card" mini-program in 2019, packaging exclusive discounts for local businesses to make the tourism experience for Chinese visitors more seamless. Then, in April 2023, the Singapore Tourism Board signed a three-year strategic cooperation memorandum with WeChat Pay, covering core points such as dining, retail, department stores, hotels, and attractions. In doing so, Singapore covered the most important needs of outbound tourists, allowing visitors to explore the authentic local dining culture and lifestyle of Singapore in an immersive yet accessible manner.

This is the key that ties Singapore's approach together, as seamless payments remove a major obstacle to immersive and memorable travel experiences. Furthermore, as WeChat, Huawei and Alibaba increasingly move into digital tourism services, Singapore Tourism Board will likely move first to secure partnerships that make Chinese travelers' experiences in Singapore ever more seamless. "In addition to exploring external cooperation, in terms of communication, our official social media accounts and the 'Experience Singapore' WeChat mini-program are constantly being updated and upgraded to keep everyone informed about the latest attractions and projects in Singapore, making travel in Singapore more convenient," explains Pan. "It's worth mentioning we also launched another mini-program, 'Meeting Merli', in early December last year, where you can 'virtually raise' your own adorable lion as an electronic pet, fall in love with the Lion City through daily interactions with this Singapore tourism mascot, and embark on an exciting exploration journey together," Pan adds.

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