SINGAPORE - About 9.2 million tourists visited Singapore between January and June this year, a robust 7.6 per cent increase over the same period last year.
The increase was highest for the month of June, when the Republic hosted the historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
That month, 1.54 million visitors arrived in Singapore, up 11.32 per cent compared with the same period last year, according to figures by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said in a speech at the Singapore Hotel Association's 57th anniversary dinner on Thursday (Sept 27) that the growth in visitors for the first half of the year was a "promising start".
The summit is likely to have played a part in the tourism boost, bringing in thousands of foreign media and putting the spotlight on Singapore as a destination, said Mr Kevin Wee, a senior lecturer at Nanyang Polytechnic's hospitality and tourism management programme.
But the bigger factors for the "healthy increase" were the well-performing economies in source markets such as India and long-term marketing efforts by the STB, said Mr Wee.
Having Singapore as the backdrop to Hollywood film Crazy Rich Asians, which broke box office records after opening in August, was also a good branding opportunity, he said.
"I'm not sure if it will translate to significant numbers from Western markets, but at least (the movie) makes Singapore look more exciting, after the Time Out survey (in January) called us boring," he said.
The second half of the year poses some uncertainty however, because of factors such as the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, said Mr Wee.
Speaking at the event at the Mandarin Orchard hotel, Mr Chee said the hotel industry, which comprises some 420 establishments and 33,000 workers, is well-placed to benefit from a strong tourism sector.
Mr Chee also addressed the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) recent move to tighten its Training Work Permit (TWP) scheme by imposing levies and quota restrictions for foreign students hired as short-term trainees.
The ministry had done so as more firms were found to have abused the scheme "to circumvent foreign worker levy, quota and source controls," he said.
Noting that there are genuine needs from hospitality school Shatec and companies which "are not trying to game the system," he said that the MOM and STB are working with Shatec to find a solution.
"I urge the parties involved to continue discussing possible options that uphold the policy intent of the work pass system, while meeting the concerns and needs of the industry," he said.