Despite a dwindling number of visitors from China, tourist spending in Singapore hit $6 billion in the first three months of the year, up 5 per cent from that of the same period last year.
Sightseeing, entertainment and gaming were the top money spinners, bringing in S$1.6 billion, a 19 per cent increase compared with 2013, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) yesterday.
More tourists from South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia also made up for the shortfall in China visitors.
The number of Chinese nationals visiting Singapore peaked at 2.27 million last year based on publicly available data.
But it has been shrinking after a new tourism law in China late last year clamped down on cheap shopping tours sold at or below cost.
Political instability in Thailand and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in March also led to fewer Chinese tourists, who usually travel to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in a combined tour package, said industry observers.
Despite the decline, experts do not expect the sector to suffer, partly because of new attractions which are crowd pleasers.
“Sightseeing will continue to do reasonably well in the near future because there are relatively new developments like Gardens by the Bay and River Safari that people have heard of, but have not seen and are curious about,” said Dr Michael Chiam, senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
A spokesman for Resorts World Sentosa said its attractions and hotels observed a 6 per cent revenue growth in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same quarter last year.
China was the source of the second largest number of visitors to Singapore in the first quarter, with 557,000 arrivals.
Indonesians were first on the list – with almost 750,000 visitors here, a 6 per cent jump from that last year.
Chinese travellers, however, remained the biggest spenders, chalking up S$800 million worth of receipts in shopping and accommodation, for instance.
But Dr Chiam cautioned that shopping, which dropped by 6 per cent in tourism receipts, will be a recurring challenge.
“With our strong currency and high rentals, Singapore is not a cheap place to shop,” he said.
“People have more options with other countries like Malaysia and China opening more branded outlets.”
Overall, international visitor arrivals held steady at 3.9 million.
There were particularly strong gains in visitors from South Korea, which jumped by 17 per cent, and Vietnam, 13 per cent.
“The growth for South Korea was boosted by an appreciation of the Korean won, which aided outbound travel, and the introduction of Scoot as the only low-cost carrier plying the Singapore-Seoul route from June 2013,” STB said in its report.
It added that outbound travel from Vietnam has increased in recent years, as travel is becoming more popular.
Meanwhile, hotel room revenue grew 12 per cent to hit $800 million in the first quarter, with luxury hotels recording the strongest growth.
Sightseeing will continue to do reasonably well in the near future because there are relatively new developments like Gardens by the Bay and River Safari that people have heard of, but have not seen and are curious about.
- Dr Michael Chiam, senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic
This article was first published on July 22, 2014.
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Tourism rakes in $6b in Q1 despite fewer China visitors