Singapore braces for slowdown in tourism after good showing

DESPITE the global economic gloom, arrival figures to Singapore held up relatively well in 1H2012, although visitors are keeping a closer watch on their spending, according to industry observers and the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) latest statistics release.

Visitor volume to the country grew by 11 per cent in 1H2012, compared to the same period last year. This was an impressive result, given the stellar outcomes achieved in 2010 and 2011. Between January and June, some 7.1 million visitors made their way to Singapore.

Tourism receipts came in at S$11.5 billion (US$9.4 billion) in the first half, a growth of seven per cent year-on-year, reversing the trend in the last two years where the rate of growth in tourism spend outstripped that of arrivals.

Inbound travel experts concur with STB that the first half of the year was a good one, with most reporting that they have managed to hit targets. However, 2H2012 has been more tumultuous, with the global economic slowdown weighing down on travellers from around the globe.

“Singapore’s strong currency has been particularly off-putting for regional leisure markets such as China and India. Not only are customers looking at other less expensive South-east Asian destinations such as Thailand, even Europe and the Caribbean now offer significantly better value than Singapore and some are actually choosing to head there instead,” said Yvonne Low, executive director, The Traveller DMC.

Tony Aw, assistant general manager (inbound), Hong Thai Travel Services, whose firm suffered a slowdown in bookings in 2H2012, despite clocking significant growth in the first half said: “(Leisure) visitors who come to Singapore are now trimming costs, for instance by switching from four-star to two- or three-star properties, or by shortening their stay, just to make visiting Singapore much more affordable.”

While some industry players are reluctant to make forecasts for 2013 due to the economic ambiguity, most believe that the clutch of new attractions such as Gardens by the Bay, the Marine Life Park and River Safari will spur arrival and expenditure growth in 2013.

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