Singapore Tourism Board set to tackle slower spending

STB's overall retail strategy to help recapture shoppers includes tackling the "growing concern about whether our shopping is becoming a bit more homogenised".
STB's overall retail strategy to help recapture shoppers includes tackling the "growing concern about whether our shopping is becoming a bit more homogenised".PHOTO: ST FILE

While the number of tourist arrivals last year exceeded forecasts, spending grew by just 1 per cent, its poorest performance since 2015.

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Keith Tan, who took the reins last October, stressed that the amount is still a historical high.

But he attributed the slower pace of spending to three factors: a global trend of consumers travelling more but spending less, currency fluctuations in some of the Republic's top source markets, and more visitors who spend less time here.

Eight of Singapore's 14 top source markets saw their currencies depreciate last year to their lowest levels against the Singapore dollar since 2015, said Mr Tan, possibly affecting spending habits.

There was also an increase in day trippers, visitors pairing Singapore with other cities and cruise passengers who make brief stopovers, he noted.

Mr Tan outlined the STB's overall retail strategy to help recapture shoppers, which includes tackling the "growing concern about whether our shopping is becoming a bit more homogenised".

"STB will work with forward-looking mall owners and retailers who are already introducing new concepts in entertainment, leisure and play to their malls," he said, adding that the agency will "use the levers at our disposal" to promote them to travellers.

 
 

The planned rejuvenation of Orchard Road also opens up possibilities for new brands and concepts to shun large upfront investments in brick-and-mortar stores for pop-ups to test the market, he said.

While it transforms into a lifestyle destination, STB will also promote shopping destinations in precincts like Kampong Glam, and help local designers to upgrade their skills and processes.

"As people are now more used to buying things online, our own local retailers have to up their game to make sure that they can compete," said Mr Tan.

Dr Michael Chiam, senior tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said slower spending growth is a global trend as Chinese travellers buy less luxury goods abroad and more young people with limited resources travel. STB's plans, particularly in helping to build up local brands, will "hopefully yield fruit, but in the short term we will face headwinds just like other cities", he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'STB set to tackle slower spending'. Print Edition | Subscribe