S'pore expects 4 to 6 million visitors in 2022; top visitor markets are Indonesia, India and Malaysia

In the first half of 2022, there were 1.5 million visitor arrivals. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - As global travel picks up, four to six million visitors will be expected in Singapore this year, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on Thursday (July 14).

In the first half of 2022, there were 1.5 million visitor arrivals - nearly 12 times more, compared with the same period last year.

The top five visitor markets were Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Australia and the Philippines, accounting for more than half the total visitor arrivals from January to June.

Visitors from Indonesia, India and Malaysia, in particular, registered the highest year-on-year growth in numbers.

The average length of stay for visitors also more than doubled in the first half of the year, with visitors staying for about 7.1 days, compared with 3.4 days in 2019.

Tourism receipts reached an estimated $1.3 billion in the first quarter of the year, more than 200 per cent more than for the same period last year.

However, STB said tourism flows will face some challenges for the rest of the year because of the volatile global political and economic environment, and the evolving health situation.

STB said: "We remain cautiously optimistic and anticipate a strong performance from key source markets this year, given a strong pipeline of events such as the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2022 and the Bloomberg New Economy Forum."

Just before the pandemic, Singapore saw record visitor arrivals in 2019 with 19.1 million arrivals. In 2018, visitor arrivals  hit 18.5 million. 

Though STB’s projection of four to six million is a fraction of pre-pandemic numbers, Professor Lawrence Loh from the National University of Singapore Business School said it still shows a “notable momentum” for the recovering tourism industry. 

“We are reaching a point where we are seeing a potential ignition or catalysis of international travel,” said Prof Loh. 

“It’s very respectable, given that we really started opening up only towards the mid-year... Looking ahead to next year and the years to come, it augurs well for Singapore’s international visitor arrivals,” he added. 

Booking platform Klook has already seen close to a 150 per cent increase in inbound bookings to Singapore. Aside from source markets such as Indonesia, India and Malaysia, Klook has seen robust interest from other countries in the region, such as the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

General manager for Klook in Singapore, Ms Sarah Wan, expects this trend to continue towards the year-end travel season.

“In the past two years, Singapore has been successful at protecting its tourism infrastructure, which has helped it strongly capture this first wave of revenge travel in Asia,” said Ms Wan. 

“With the revival of events, as well as other facets of our tourism landscape such as cruises, our outlook remains optimistic for this year,” she said. She added that Singapore’s recovery continues to outpace the region's, especially when it comes to high-value visitors, with a 75 per cent increase in average spend, as compared with 2019. 

Experts like Mr Paul Kent, partner for advisory at KPMG in Singapore, said a game changer for Singapore has been the major events that it has managed to attract here. 

“Convincing international players to host large numbers of visitors in Singapore has been an endorsement for the country,” said Mr Kent. 

“It essentially communicates to the world that Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world with good Covid-19 protocols, while also being a place of interest in Asia... For instance, the nation has been described as a microcosm of modern Asia and a stress-free travel destination.” 

Despite the forecast, he said, it does not mean Singapore is out of the woods, as restrictions in Singapore could still be tightened should the Covid-19 situation worsen. 

He added: “We’re also seeing global inflation posing great concerns, with the market taking a more cautious viewpoint that a recession might be coming soon. Eyes will be on the various policy measures put in place to manage these challenges - all of which have implications for private and business spending, alongside general economic recovery.”

STB chief executive Keith Tan said the encouraging growth in visitor arrivals and tourism receipts signal strong pent-up demand, and underscore Singapore's continued appeal as a vibrant and attractive destination for leisure and business travellers.

He said: "While the pandemic is certainly not over yet, we are confident that Singapore's very rich calendar of events, as well as new and refreshed tourism offerings, will continue to attract visitors for the rest of 2022 and beyond."

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