Tourism footfall on the rise in SG, but shopping loses its lure

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has recorded a growth in visitor arrivals from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, India, Australia, Japan, Philippines, US, South Korea, Vietnam, United Kingdom, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Germany. The record arrivals boosted the overall visitor arrivals by 6.2% to 18.5 million for the period of January to September in 2018.

STB said that China (6%), Indonesia (2%) and India (13%) continued to be the top three contributing markets for visitor arrivals to Singapore. STB said India (18%), Indonesia (8%) and China (3%) posted the highest year-on-year absolute growth in tourism receipts excluding sightseeing, entertainment and gaming. But growth was slowed by declines in shopping (14%), accommodation (5%) and food & beverage (4%). These were partially offset by growths in sightseeing, entertainment and gaming (6%) as well as other tourism receipt components (21%).

The rise in numbers came shortly after STB and EDB stamped a brand logo and tagline to market Singapore internationally for both tourism and business purposes. In 2017, STB went on a massive marketing overhaul with a new tagline “Passion Made Possible” and logo being stamped across its collateral. The board said the fourth ever brand revamp was needed to communicate Singapore’s value proposition in addressing the needs of travellers and companies. Meanwhile the nation also got an extra shove into the limelight with events such as the Trump-Kim summit taking place in Singapore and Hollywood movie Crazy Rich Asians showcasing Singapore in all its glory.

When asked if STB attributes its  tourism rise to these global events, a spokesperson said both the events definitely drove awareness, but was unable to directly attribute the growth to the PR value of these world events.

What led to growth in 2018?

For China and India, there was growth from both tier one and tier two cities. In particular, cruise arrivals from India spiked 27% as more Indian travellers took up new cruise offerings such as the Genting Dream and Royal Caribbean Cruises' Voyager of the Seas. Overall, tourist spending grew but was slowed by declines in shopping (14%), accommodation (5%) and food & beverage (4%). These were partially offset by growths in sightseeing, entertainment and gaming (6%) as well as other tourism receipt components (21%).

India was in the lead for growth due to a higher spending on accommodation. Meanwhile Indonesia's growth was attributed to a greater spend on other tourism receipt components. The report said that growth in China was driven by a double-digit growth in leisure visitors. 2018 also marked as a strong year for Singapore's tourism sector as core tourism industries of Business Travel and Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conventions and Exhibitions (BTMICE), hotels and cruise sector posted strong results.

From January to September 2018, BTMICE sector rose by 10% to SG$3.44 billion, compared to the same period in 2017. This was driven by the growth in BTMICE visitor arrivals, which rose 14% year-on-year to hit two million. Events held in Singapore such as the Bloomberg New Economy Forum and mega Asian technology conference ConnecTechAsia was said to have garnered interest from global professionals.

The hotel industry also reported a total gazetted room revenue increase of 7.4% to reach SG$4.0 billion in 2018 while hotel occupancy rose by 1.2% points to 86%. Average room rate increased 0.9% year-on-year to SG$219 while revenue per available room increased 2.4% to reach SG$189 in 2018.

Forecast for 2019

Reviewing the statistics, STB forecasts 2019 tourism receipts to be in the range of SG$27.3 to SG$27.9 billion and international visitor arrivals to be in the range of 18.7 to 19.2 million. Due to the volatility of the global political and economic environment, and stiffer regional competition, STB looks to remain cautiously optimistic. It also anticipates strong tourism growth particularly from Singapore's key visitor source markets for 2019.

In a statement, STB said that it will continue to grow and develop the tourism sector with new offerings and refreshed concepts to ensure Singapore remains an attractive destination. Chief executive of Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Keith Tan, said that Singapore's tourism sector performed well in 2018 despite the economic uncertainties.

"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. It is also heartening to see our marketing efforts and collaborations with industry partners bearing fruit," he added.