Higher-spending visitors give a fillip to tourism receipts

Singapore is increasingly attracting higher-spending visitors who helped boost tourism receipts in the first half of this year.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) yesterday said international visitor arrivals from January to June rose 13 per cent, compared to the same period last year, to hit 8.2 million. STB figures also show that visitors spent $11.6 billion, up 12 per cent.

While the growth in spending was mainly due to the increase in visitor numbers, STB noted that visitors also forked out more on shopping, accommodation and food and beverage. This helped to offset a fall in sightseeing, entertainment and gaming "that was due largely to the decline in gaming revenue as reported by the integrated resorts" .

For example, in the second quarter, visitors spent 65 per cent more on shopping, 41 per cent more on food and beverage and 30 per cent more on accommodation compared to the same period last year.

The agency also noted that Singapore is increasingly "seeing more visitors with higher propensity to spend" from major cities in markets such as Australia, India and Indonesia.

They spent more on fashion accessories, wellness products, souvenirs, gifts and confectionery.

There was also strong growth in visitors from secondary cities in China, India and Indonesia, where the tourism agency has ramped up marketing efforts, Ms Shameem Mustaffa, STB's director of research, told The Straits Times.

In particular, visitors from secondary cities in China, such as Chongqing and Fuzhou, rose 70 per cent year on year to make up 395,000 of the 1.5 million Chinese who visited Singapore in the first half of this year.

Dr Michael Chiam, a Ngee Ann Polytechnic senior lecturer in tourism, called the rise in such visitors a "turning point" for Singapore's tourism sector, which has been battered by a weakened global economy and sluggish growth.

Visitors from secondary Chinese cities tend to be free and independent travellers who stay longer although they have lower spending power than those from primary cities, he said.

STB added that more visitors are choosing to stay in paid accommodation, particularly in mid-tier hotels. "In contrast, we are seeing (fewer) long stayers who are typically hosted by their friends and relatives," said STB.

Hotel room revenue for gazetted hotels, which are mainly in prime or tourist areas and charge only nightly rates, was estimated at $1.6 billion for the first half of 2016, a year-on-year growth of 3.2 per cent.

While average occupancy rate for hotels has gone up, the revenue for each available room dropped by 2.4 per cent year on year due to a fall in the average room rate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Higher-spending visitors give a fillip to tourism receipts'. Subscribe