Tourist arrivals up, but spending down 3% for first half of year

Headwinds are likely to affect Singapore's tourism performance this year, particularly in spending. To help arrest this, the STB is diversifying source markets and creating an array of upcoming attractions. ST PHOTO: KELLY HUI
Headwinds are likely to affect Singapore's tourism performance this year, particularly in spending. To help arrest this, the STB is diversifying source markets and creating an array of upcoming attractions. ST PHOTO: KELLY HUI

Spending by tourists fell in the first half of this year, despite the number of tourist arrivals in Singapore rising 1.3 per cent to reach 9.3 million.

Visitors here spent $13.1 billion between January and June, a 3 per cent decline compared with the same period last year, according to figures released by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) yesterday.

They spent less on accommodation (down 13 per cent), food and beverage (down 5 per cent) and sightseeing, entertainment and gaming (down 2 per cent).

But there was good news for retailers, with spending on shopping increasing by 2 per cent to reach $2.8 billion. A miscellaneous category that covers things such as airfare expenditure on Singapore-based carriers, local transportation and medical tourism also grew by 1 per cent to $3.7 billion.

Gazetted hotel room revenue, meanwhile, grew 1.7 per cent year on year to about $1.9 billion.

China, Indonesia and India remained the biggest sources of visitors and spending, though spending by Chinese and Indian visitors fell by 5 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.

The United States registered the highest growth in both categories, with some 361,000 visitors - a 10 per cent rise from the same period last year - who spent $407 million, an 11 per cent increase.

Among the top 10 markets, Americans spent the largest proportion on accommodation, while visitors from China spent the most on shopping. Tourists from the Philippines dedicated more of their budget to food and beverage.

STB's director for digital transformation Poh Chi Chuan attributed the overall decline in tourism receipts between January and June to lower spending in the leisure and business events sectors.

Uncertainties in the global economy and currency fluctuations against the Singapore dollar have prompted more cautious spending by visitors, he said.

 
 
 

More visitors also spent less time here, with more also choosing to stay in lower-tier hotels or with friends and relatives, leading to lower spending on accommodation, he said.

While tourist arrivals and receipts hit record highs for the third straight year last year, spending grew by just 1 per cent, the slowest rate since 2015.

Visitor arrivals continue to rise, with 12.9 million recorded between this January and August, a near-2 per cent year-on-year increase, Mr Poh said. However, headwinds are likely to affect Singapore's tourism performance this year, particularly in spending, he added.

The STB's efforts to combat this include diversifying source markets and creating an array of upcoming attractions, including a new tourism development in the Jurong Lake District. "STB will continue to work closely with industry stakeholders to encourage day-trippers to extend their stay in Singapore, which will contribute to higher per capita expenditure," said Mr Poh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2019, with the headline 'Tourist arrivals up, but spending down 3% for first half of year'. Print Edition | Subscribe