SINGAPORE - Visitors to the Republic spent less in the first quarter of this year on the back of global economic uncertainties, but the same period saw a 1 per cent uptick in tourist arrivals year on year to reach 4.7 million.
Tourism spending was $6.5 billion between January and March, a 4.8 per cent decline compared to the same period in 2018, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said in its quarterly report on Monday (Aug 5).
Visitors spent less on shopping (down 7 per cent), accommodation (down 12 per cent), food and beverage (down 7 per cent) and sightseeing, entertainment and gaming (down 3 per cent).
The only area that registered growth - and the largest share of the spending pie - is a miscellaneous category that covers things like airfare expenditure on Singapore-based carriers, local transportation and business as well as medical tourism.
It grew 2 per cent year on year to reach $1.86 million.
Gazetted hotel room revenue meanwhile grew 4.3 per cent to hit $1 billion, due in part to a 1 per cent increase in the average room rate to $222.
China, Indonesia and India remained the biggest source of visitors and spending, with visitorship remaining relatively stable.
Tourism receipts however fell in a number of markets including India (down 6 per cent), Britain (down 4 per cent), Malaysia (down 34 per cent) and the Philippines (down 18 per cent).
Nearly a million Chinese visitors spent more than $1 billion excluding sightseeing, entertainment and gaming, a 1 per cent decline compared to last year. Half of the spending was on shopping, making the Chinese tourists the biggest spenders in the category.
The United States registered the highest year-on-year growth in spending - 15 per cent - with the largest proportion spent on accommodation.
STB director for digital transformation Poh Chi Chuan said that visitors may be more cautious about spending "due to ongoing risk and uncertainties in the global economy such as the US-China trade tensions and Brexit, as well as currency fluctuations against the Singapore dollar".
"We also observed a slight increase in visitors who spent less time in Singapore due to the way their travel itineraries were structured, including day trippers, visitors who twin Singapore with other destinations, and cruise passengers," said Mr Poh.
Still, four of Singapore's top 10 markets - Indonesia, Japan, the US and South Korea - registered growth, he noted.
"We remain cautiously optimistic about our tourism performance this year, taking into account global factors that might affect consumer confidence and travel sentiments."
The STB has forecast tourism spending to grow by 1 to 3 per cent for 2019 and total visitor arrivals to be in the range of 18.7 million to 19.2 million, an increase of 1 to 4 per cent over last year.