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S'pore arrivals hit 14.4m, but spending growth slow
Publication Date : 14-03-2013
A record 14.4 million tourists visited these shores last year, but what they spent did not keep pace with the rise in numbers.
That is something Singapore needs to fix, but the challenge is how.
Last year's visitor numbers, according to preliminary estimates by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), were up 9 per cent on the 13.2 million who came in 2011.
They spent S$23 billion (US$18.43 billion), also a record. But it was just 3.6 per cent more than the S$22.2 billion (US$17.8 billion) the year before.
In the five years since 2008, tourist arrivals have grown at a compounded annual rate of 9.2 per cent, and tourism receipts at 10.4 per cent.
The STB expects moderate growth this year, with tourism receipts hitting between S$23.5 billion and S$24.5 billion, and with arrivals in the range of 14.8 million to 15.5 million.
But the next phase of growth would have to come from increasing visitor spending rather than just numbers, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said in Parliament on Monday.
According to analysts, one way will be to get tourists to stay longer, which could be a challenge given the high hotel room rates. Average rates here climbed to a record high of S$261 last year, making it one of the priciest in the region, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry's 2012 Economic Survey of Singapore.
Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of California-based Galaviz & Company which specialises in tourism, casinos and government strategies, believes Singapore should try to stay relevant to the middle class tourists from India and China by sharply increasing the number of high quality three-star hotel rooms.
Figures from STB showed that, in the first half of last year, most tourists came from Indonesia, followed by China, Malaysia, India and Australia.
"At some point, the human and physical infrastructure of Singapore's tourism sector will max out," said Galaviz, adding that the Government should focus on maintaining existing facilities.
Dr Michael Chiam, a senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, suggested Singapore could improve on mature attractions, taking a leaf from The Singapore Zoo, which will open its River Safari at the end of the month. This could draw repeat visitors, he said.
He noted that the STB was already adding new attractions - the Giant Panda Forest, Marine Life Park and Gardens by the Bay opened last year - and developing new markets in Russia and China to increase visitor numbers.
Dr Chiam said: "We have to keep coming up with new experiences, but there's only so much we can do."