06/25/2014, 00.00
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Singapore trying to attract Chinese tourists, taking advantage of chaos in Thailand and Malaysia

Thailand's political crisis and the mysterious disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines flight have reduced the number of arrivals from China. The city-state plans to take advantage of the situation and become a standalone destination, separate from Thailand and Malaysia. In 2013, 2.27 million tourists - out of more than 15 million - came to Singapore from China, leaving US$ 300 million in local coffers.

Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Singapore is mounting a drive in mainland China to market itself as a standalone tourism and business destination, officials said on Tuesday. The mainland represents a huge potential market and could boost the hospitality industry in Singapore.

This is especially important now that the city-state's immediate neighbours are in crisis. Thailand is reeling from the effects a military coup that ousted the government as well as imposed martial law and a curfew (partially lifted in tourist resort areas). Malaysia and China are at loggerheads over the mysterious disappearance on 8 March of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which carried mostly Chinese citizens.

Singapore's The Straits Times newspaper reported on Tuesday that Singapore tourism was being hurt by Chinese travellers' reluctance to visit Malaysia and Thailand. Hence, the authorities decided to launch a five-million-yuan marketing campaign that will last until October to encourage Chinese travellers to visit Singapore alone.

It is jointly organised by Singapore airport operator Changi Airport Group (CAG), the Singapore Tourism Board and Chinese and Singaporean travel agencies.

Changi handled 1.87 million passengers to and from China from January to May, a decline of 1.7 per cent from the previous year.

Out of a total 15.5 million visitors to Singapore last year, over 2.27 million were from China, according to government data. They spent a total of US8 million, making them the biggest tourist spenders in the city-state.

Analysts and local economists believe that it makes sense for Singapore to dissociate itself from its crisis-hit neighbours - Malaysia and Thailand - and become an independent tourist destination.

Edward Chew, regional director for the Greater China region at the Singapore Tourism Board, said that Singapore is already "seeing more Chinese visitors travelling to Singapore as a mono-destination" and they also tend "stay longer".

Lacking the white-sand beaches and other natural wonders of its bigger neighbours, Singapore offers a wide array of man-made attractions, including two casino resorts and Southeast Asia's first Universal Studios theme park.

Smaller than New York and without natural resources, the city-state's 2010 gross domestic product (GDP) stood at 285 billion Singapore dollars (about US$ 231 billion), up 14.5 per cent, the highest in all of Asia.

However, wealth is not equally distributed and the city-state's economic prosperity has accentuated the disparity among citizens.

Singapore's Gini coefficient - a measure of income distribution inequality - now stands at 0.48 (it was 0.444 in 2000).

The Gini coefficient ranges between zero (perfect equality) and one (perfect inequality).

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