THE traditional gift of mooncakes has been rated as the No.1 entertainment expense for local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) during the Mid-Autumn Festival, according to a new survey.

It found that of the SMEs celebrating the festival with customers, 71 per cent said mooncakes would be their gift of choice, while 31 per cent chose a meal and 13 per cent opted for a gift of tea.

About a third of the respondents said they planned to spend more than last year on entertaining, while 61 per cent said they would be keeping their budgets flat.

Another 14 per cent of respondents to the survey commissioned by United Overseas Bank said they planned to spend more than $10,000 on mooncakes. The average spending this year was $4,963.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, a celebration of family unity and thanksgiving at the end of a bountiful harvest season, is one of the most widely marked Chinese festivals. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. This year it falls on Sept 30.

Local SMEs also see it as a time to recognise business partners, suppliers and vendors who have supported them. Four out of five survey respondents said gifts given during the festival were an important part of building long-term relationships.

While there are many mooncake flavours offered each year, from green tea to durian to red bean, the traditional baked lotus paste with yolk mooncake is by far the most popular choice for SMEs, with 75 per cent saying they would choose this as a gift for customers.