Tourist arrivals, spending hit record highs for fourth year

Tourist arrivals are projected to fall by up to 30 per cent this year, as Chinese tourists have thinned out due to travel restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Tourist arrivals are projected to fall by up to 30 per cent this year, as Chinese tourists have thinned out due to travel restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Tourism receipts slightly lower than expected amid global economic uncertainties, currency fluctuations

Singapore's tourism industry enjoyed record highs for the fourth year in a row last year.

Visitor numbers rose 3.3 per cent to 19.1 million, while the amount they spent inched up 0.5 per cent to $27.1 billion, according to preliminary estimates released by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) yesterday.

However, tourism receipts were slightly below projections, continuing the trend of spending failing to keep pace with arrivals.

This was largely due to global economic uncertainties, more day trippers and currency fluctuations against the Singapore dollar in seven out of 10 key source markets, STB said.

Visitors spent less on food and beverage (-5 per cent), accommodation (-7 per cent), as well as sightseeing, entertainment and gaming (-2 per cent) from January to September last year.

Spending on shopping, however, rose by 3 per cent to $4.2 billion, boosted by the opening of malls such as Jewel Changi Airport and Funan.

Meanwhile, the miscellaneous category - which includes airfare expenditure on Singapore-based carriers, local transportation and medical tourism - grew by 4 per cent to nearly $6 billion. It was propelled by an increase in visitors arriving on local carriers.

China remained Singapore's top market, with 3.6 million Chinese tourists spending $3.2 billion here in the first three quarters of last year. Nearly half of the spending was on shopping.

Indonesia and India remained in the second and third places respectively for arrivals and spending.

Spending by Indonesian tourists grew by 6 per cent to $2.3 billion, while visitors from India spent 9 per cent less than the same period in the year before.

Nine of Singapore's top 15 source markets saw record numbers of arrivals, with the United States posting the highest percentage growth of 13 per cent as more came for leisure and business events.

There was an 8 per cent drop in visitors for business travel and meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions for the first three quarters, due to fewer events held.

Gazetted hotel room revenue went up by 5.5 per cent to $4.2 billion, while the cruise industry ended its four-year streak of double-digit year-on-year growth.

Passenger traffic fell 2.5 per cent to 1.82 million, which STB attributed to the dry docking of Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas for more than a month.

As for future plans, the STB said work is progressing on large-scale projects like the Mandai Nature Precinct, while the interim use of a decommissioned power station in Pasir Panjang for lifestyle events is among the plans to be completed this year.

Tourist arrivals are projected to fall by up to 30 per cent this year, as Chinese tourists have thinned out due to travel restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline 'Tourist arrivals, spending hit record highs for fourth year'. Print Edition | Subscribe