It's Lonely Planet's No. 1 destination. But Singapore's visitor numbers have been falling

Tourists taking photos near Marina Bay Sands.
Tourists taking photos near Marina Bay Sands. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Singapore was ranked as Lonely Planet's top 2015 destination. That hasn't helped the island draw more tourists so far this year.

Marina Bay Sands, the casino-resort that's the biggest hotel in Singapore, posted its lowest average room rate since the end of 2012 as gaming revenue slumped, raising concerns the outlook for tourist arrivals to the city may worsen.

Singapore recorded year-on-year declines in visitors in 14 of the past 15 months through May this year while hotel room rates dropped for 10 straight months. The Singapore dollar has also gained against currencies of some of its biggest tourism markets including Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, making it a more expensive destination.

"Overall tourist traffic hasn't been good," said Samuel Yin, an analyst at Maybank Kim Eng Securities in Kuala Lumpur. "Singapore's stronger currency probably turned off some tourists."

Marina Bay Sands said its average room rates sank to US$377 (S$516) per night in the three months ended June 30 from US$409 a year earlier. Occupancy rate at the Las Vegas Sands Corp. property rose about 1 percentage point to 95.9 per cent from the previous three months, hovering at one of the lowest levels in almost four years.

The decline in tourists also comes as Singapore's economy contracted 4.6 per cent month-on-month last quarter, more than analysts predicted, and underscoring the weakening outlook for Asian nations amid sluggish global growth.

Some economists are counting on events such as the Formula One night race in September and an islandwide retail sale to lift tourist figures and fill rooms.

"I don't think the pressure will continue," said Leong Wai Ho, senior regional economist at Barclays Plc. "We've got generally a number of travel magnets in the second half, which should support room rates."