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Most Thai-Chinese plan to celebrate the upcoming festive season with a larger budget compared to last year, according to the annual United Overseas Bank’s (UOB) Lunar New Year Survey. Like last year, their top spending priorities are red packets, shopping and family reunion dinners.
Overall, Thai-Chinese consumers intend to spend an average of 37,400 baht each to usher in the Year of Monkey, more than double from last year’s budget of 17,400 baht. The increase can be attributed to more respondents planning to travel, with one in three respondents planning to go away during the festive period, as compared with 27 per cent last year. The majority of respondents who planned to travel this year, totalling one in five of all respondents, will do so domestically.
The average travelling budget increased more than two times this year mainly for domestic and overseas vacation and visit to family and friends. The budget for shopping doubled owing to the increase in purchase of clothes and electronic appliances. The budget for red packets nearly doubled this year from last year.
Despite the higher overall budget, respondents remain cautious about 2016’s economic outlook. Almost 45 per cent of the survey respondents said they thought Thailand’s economic situation will remain the same as in 2015, while 34 per cent expected the economy to get better. One in five respondents expected the economy to decline this year.
UOB (Thai) economist Manop Udomkerdmongkol said, “The overall spending by Thai consumers to celebrate the Lunar New Year with their loved ones increased significantly this year, thanks to the continued economic recovery. The steady growth in non-farm income, decline in energy prices, and the government’s stimulus package, have boosted purchasing power of households.”
This year, family members, friends and colleagues can look forward to fuller red packets. On average, each Thai-Chinese will give parents 5,300 baht in red packets this year, two times higher that of 2015’s average of 1,700 baht. Friends and colleagues will receive 1,200 baht in red packets this year, two times higher that of 2015’s average of 400 baht.
Similar to last year, there continues to be a focus on being prudent in 2016. Among those receiving red packets, nearly three out of four respondents said they will save the money while one in three respondents said they will invest it. Less than half of the respondents said they will spend it and 14 per cent said they will use the money to pay off debts. 16 per cent of the respondents said they will donate the money to charity and 10 per cent said they will give the money to other family members.
Bearers of wealth and luck
When it comes to selecting red packets, nearly half of the respondents expressed a preference for traditional designs and colours and appropriate greetings. Paper cutting, jade carvings and calligraphy emerged as the top three traditional Chinese art forms respondents most wanted to see featured on red packets.
In response to the survey feedback, UOB has drawn on the heritage of Chinese paper folding and the Year of Monkey for its 2016 red packet design. As monkeys are often associated with wealth and luck in the Chinese zodiac, the UOB red packet design features paper fold silhouettes of eight auspicious monkeys dancing in a playful and energetic manner.
 The UOB survey, conducted by Ipsos, interviewed 500 people in Thailand aged between 18 and 55 on the behaviours and attitudes for the 2016 Lunar New Year. The survey was conducted in December 2015.