Tourists spent record $24.8b in Singapore in 2016; arrivals also hit record high of 16.4m tourists

Tourists taking photos at the Merlion Park with the skyline of the Central Business District in the background.
Tourists taking photos at the Merlion Park with the skyline of the Central Business District in the background.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Tourist arrivals and spending in Singapore hit record highs in 2016, buoyed by the growth of the China market and visitors spending more on food and beverage, shopping and accommodation.

The number of visitors grew by 7.7 per cent to 16.4 million last year, while tourism receipts rose by 13.9 per cent to $24.8 billion, preliminary estimates by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) show.

The strong showing marks a turnaround from 2015, when tourism receipts fell 7.6 per cent to $21.8 billion, the first decline since 2009.

In good news for retail, visitors spent 48 per cent more on shopping between January and September 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. This was due to increased spending on confectionery, gifts and souvenirs and fashion and accessories, STB said at a media conference on Tuesday (Feb 14) where it reviewed its performance for the past year.

Visitors were also willing to fork out more for accommodation (up by 28 per cent) and food and beverage (up by 24 per cent). Sightseeing, entertainment and gaming, however, fell 16 per cent with lower gaming revenue reported by the integrated resorts.

Indonesia remained the top source of visitors to the Republic for 2016, edging out China after the Chinese took the top spot for arrivals from January to November. This was followed by Malaysia, which posted a 2 per cent decline due to a depreciating ringgit, and India, which overtook Australia for fourth place.

Chinese tourists were the biggest spenders for the second year in a row, with a 36 per cent increase in visitor arrivals, making it the top growth market.

There were more visitor arrivals from Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in China, India and Indonesia, where STB had intensified its marketing efforts, the agency said.

The largest decline in visitor arrivals was posted by Hong Kong (-12 per cent), due largely to its weaker economic performance.

The business events and cruise sectors showed double-digit year-on-year growth. More than 410 business events were held in 2016, which brought in 28 per cent more revenue, while cruise passenger throughput grew 16 per cent to about 1.2 million.

Said STB chief executive Lionel Yeo: "Despite challenges such as weaker economic performance in some of Singapore's top source markets and a Zika virus outbreak, Singapore has managed to attract more quality visitors to contribute to economic growth."

For this year, STB forecasts tourism receipts to grow by 1 to 4 per cent to $25.1 billion to $25.8 billion. Visitor arrivals are expected to be between 16.4 million and 16.7 million, a growth of 0 to 2 per cent.