Record-high visitor arrivals, modest increase in tourism spending for Singapore in 2018

·Editorial Team
FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore
FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore

While Singapore enjoyed a record high in visitor arrivals in 2018, preliminary estimates of tourism spending showed only a modest increase in the past year.

According to the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) year-in-review report released on Wednesday (13 February), total visitor arrivals rose to 18.5 million in 2018, up 6.2 per cent from 2017.

This was due to growth across almost all of the top 15 markets, with seven out of the 15 markets (China, India, Philippines, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam and Germany) hitting new highs.

China (6 per cent growth), Indonesia (2 per cent) and India (13 per cent) continued to be the top three contributing markets for visitor arrivals to Singapore.

In particular, cruise arrivals from India spiked 27 per cent as more Indian travellers took up new cruise offerings such as Genting Dream and Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Voyager of the Sea.

Tourism receipts up by 1 per cent

However, tourist receipts for 2018 rose by just 1 per cent to $27.1 billion, according to preliminary estimates. Tourism spending growth was slowed by declines in shopping (14 per cent decrease), accommodation (5 per cent) and food and beverage (4 per cent) sectors.

These were partially offset by growths in the sightseeing, entertainment and gaming sector (6 per cent) and other tourism-receipt components (21 per cent) which includes expenditure on airfares on Singapore-based carriers, port taxes and local transportation.

STB’s chief executive Keith Tan said, “We were fortunate to have benefited from a confluence of positive factors such as strong Asia-Pacific travel demand, increased flight connectivity to Singapore, and various high-profile events.”

Major events put Singapore in global spotlight

Several major events in 2018 put Singapore in the global spotlight, giving STB great opportunities to promote Singapore.

The historic meeting between US president Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un received extensive global media coverage about the Republic’s capability in hosting major
international events, as well as its safety and security.

Meanwhile, the release of Hollywood film Crazy Rich Asians, which was set in Singapore and was the first blockbuster in 25 years to feature an all-Asian cast, garnered over 527 million earned media impressions with positive destination coverage in top media publications.

STB said that organic search interest in Singapore increased more than threefold in the US during the movie’s release, according to Google data, while there was a 110-per-cent spike in searches on travel planning site Orbitz.

Finally, the Bloomberg New Economy Forum – which saw world leaders such as American statesman Henry Kissinger, former United States Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen and former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd speaking at the event – showcased aspects of Singapore to conference delegates.

Growth sectors in 2018, forecast of 2019

The business events, hotel and cruise sectors all saw growth in 2018. There was a 14-per-cent spike in visitors who came for business and travel, meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions for the first three quarters. They spent $3.4 billion, a 10-per-cent increase over 2017.

Gazetted hotel room revenue went up 7.4 per cent to $4 billion, while the cruise industry continued its double-digit year-on-year growth. Passenger traffic increased 35 per cent from last year to 1.87 million, due to the year-round deployment of Genting Dream and extended sailings from Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.

For 2019, STB forecasts tourism receipts to be in the range of $27.3 billion to S$27.9 billion and international visitor arrivals to be in the range of 18.7 million to 19.2 million.

However, it expects headwinds due to the volatility of the global political and economic climate, as well as stiffer regional competition. Nevertheless, it remains optimistic and anticipates strong tourism growth, particularly from Singapore’s key visitor source markets.

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