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Chinese tourists flock to Southeast Asia as overseas travel bounces back

Chinese tourists flock to Southeast Asia as overseas travel bounces back

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Chinese tourists flock to Southeast Asia as overseas travel bounces back

Chinese travellers flocked to tourist hot-spots across Asia over the Lunar New Year break, with visitor numbers and spending in destinations including Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia exceeding pre-COVID levels.

Visa-free access for Chinese tourists to the Southeast Asia countries boosted traffic and signalled a robust revival in travel since Beijing lifted strict COVID restrictions in early 2023 that had all but shut China’s borders for three years.

The increase also provides a welcome relief to countries whose tourism industries rely on the Chinese and their spending for growth, although the outlook for a sustained recovery in overseas travel is overshadowed by a sluggish mainland economy and volatile financial markets that have seen consumers tighten their belts at home.

“Despite the macroeconomic headwinds, we believe Chinese citizens are still willing to spend on travel-related experiences … we think travel-related spending could continue to outpace this overall domestic consumption,” HSBC said in a research note.

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Bookings to Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia combined jumped more than 30% from Feb. 10-17 compared with 2019, according to travel website operator Trip.com, with Chinese visitors to Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and South Korea also increasing.

The holiday in 2024 lasted for eight days, one day more than the Lunar New year break in 2019.

Reflecting the boost from visa waivers, hotel bookings for Bangkok tripled over the period from Feb. 10-13 year-on-year, while those for Singapore jumped nine-fold, according to travel platform LY.com.

Spending in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia combined on the Chinese mobile payment platform Alipay increased 7.5% in the period from Feb. 9-12 from 2019 levels and nearly 7-fold from last year, Alipay said.

However, overall consumer spending only recovered to 82% of levels four years ago, the company said.

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MIDDLE EAST SURGE

As Chinese scour for new adventures, the Middle East proved a popular Lunar New Year destination, with travel to Saudi Arabia up more than nine-fold from 2019 levels and bookings to United Arab Emirates climbing 60%, Trip.com said.

The gambling hub of Macau, the only place in China where citizens can legally gamble in casinos, recorded a surge in Chinese tourists with more than a million visiting over the holiday and average hotel occupancy rates reaching 95%, according to official data.

The jump in tourists bodes well for some of the world’s largest casino operators in the former Portuguese territory, including Sands China and Wynn Macau.

JP Morgan said in a note it expected daily gross gaming revenues for the peak of the holiday to hit $124 million for the first time in more than four years – higher than the $112 million generated during the October 2023 Golden Week holiday.

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Mass gaming rates were forecast to have reached 120% of pre-COVID levels, it said, adding that it expects February gross gaming revenues to rise by at least 80% year-on-year to $2.36 billion, the highest in more than four years.

Across the border in Hong Kong, leader John Lee said on Tuesday more than 1.2 million Chinese tourists visited the city over Lunar New Year and overall hotel occupancy rates reached 90% in the first few days. Around 1,980 group tours from mainland China visited Hong Kong during the holiday.

South Korea’s Justice Ministry said more than 114,000 Chinese visitors entered the country during the holiday, up 4% from 2019, while some travel agents noted tourists were increasingly opting to travel on their own rather than in groups, which meant fewer organised trips to mega-stores.

“With drops in the number of group tourists, we don’t get to see Chinese tourists carrying big shopping bags anymore,” an official at a travel agency in Seoul told Reuters, requesting not to be named as he is not authorized to speak to media.

In Japan, department store operator Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings said that through to Feb. 14 “duty-free sales were significantly higher than the previous year, partly due to the Chinese New Year”.

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A shift in holiday tastes was reflected in some data as travellers sought more experience-based trips, with Alipay reporting Chinese tourists globally spent 70% more on food and beverages compared with pre-COVID levels.

Trip.com said overseas car rentals on its platform jumped 53% compared to 2019 and tickets for scenic experiences abroad soared more than 130%. 

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine has delivered three times more drones to its armed forces so far this year than in the whole of 2023, a top commander said, as Ukrainian forces accelerate the use of unmanned craft in the war against Russia.

“This process continues and will only grow,” said Colonel Vadym Sukharevskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s drone forces.

Ukraine, which has been fighting off a full-scale Russian invasion for nearly 26 months, is seeking to ramp up its domestic arms manufacturing and use of innovative technologies to compete against its much larger and wealthier enemy.

He was speaking at an exhibition on Saturday showcasing Ukrainian-made unmanned vehicles for land, sea and air, electronic warfare systems and armoured vehicles.

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Ninety-nine percent of drones used by the Ukrainian military are produced domestically, Sukharevskyi said.

“It’s no secret that our resource limitations in artillery are compensated by drones, such as FPVs (first-person view) and (bomber) drop drones,” he told reporters, referencing an imbalance of artillery firepower between Ukraine and Russia which analysts put at six to one in Russia’s favour.

As the Ukrainian military is outgunned and outmanned on the battlefield, Moscow’s forces have been increasing pressure along the entire frontline and making gradual gains.

The increased use of drones by both sides has been shifting the conflict away from the battlefield to strikes on each other’s military, energy and transport infrastructure.

Ukrainian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), used to hit targets inside Russia in recent months, can now hit targets more than 1,200 km (750 miles) away, Sukharevskyi said.

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Tesla will lay off more than 10% of its workforce.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s Minister of Strategic Industries, said Ukrainian weapons manufacturers had fuelled both military and economic progress in the country.

Ukraine’s booming military-industrial complex grew GDP by 1.5% in 2023, a significant chunk of the total GDP growth last year of around 5%.
Kamyshin said he was confident that figure would double to 3% of GDP growth this year. But he warned Ukraine’s government could not afford to buy up all its domestic weapons production.

Ukraine was in discussions with international allies about the purchase of weapons for Ukraine from Ukrainian makers to cover the financial shortfall, he said.

“I am convinced that we will start purchases from Ukrainian manufacturers with foreign funds in the new future,” he said. 

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was sworn in as a member of the National Assembly.

NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq administered the oath.

During the session, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari provided headphones to Aseefa Bhutto Zardari to reduce the noise disturbances as PTI MNAs raised slogans calling for the release of the PTI founder.

Following Aseefa Zardari’s swearing-in, PPP members also chanted slogans in support of the Bhutto family like ‘jiye Bhutto’. 

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Sunday that British military jets shot down drones launched by Iran in its attack on Israel and called for “calm heads to prevail” to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

“I can confirm that our planes did shoot down a number of Iranian attack drones,” Sunak told broadcasters.

“If this attack had been successful, the fallout for regional stability would be hard to overstate. We stand by the security of Israel and the wider region, which is of course important for our security here at home, too. What we now need is for calm heads to prevail.”

Sunak was due to join discussions between Group of Seven leaders later on Sunday.

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“It’s important that we coordinate with allies and we’ll be discussing next steps at that moment,” he said

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