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Singapore, a small but vibrant Southeast Asian country of 4.6 million people, is seeing a significant decline in tourist visits amid the global economic downturn.

Singapore, a small but vibrant Southeast Asian country of 4.6 million people, is seeing a significant decline in tourist visits amid the global economic downturn.

Recent data released by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) shows that visitor arrivals to the nation-state reached only 771,000 in January 2009, down 12.9 percent compared to January 2008. Visitor days in January 2009 totaled 3.3 million days, a decrease of 6.9 percent compared to a year earlier.

Consequently, Singapore’s gazetted hotels, hotels that meet certain minimum criteria laid down by the STB, earned only S$124 million ($80 million) in room revenue in January 2009, a decrease of 29.9 percent from January 2008.

The new tourism figures follow mixed results from 2008. Overall performance of Singapore’s tourism industry in 2008 saw fewer visitors who spent more days and more money in the country. Singapore welcomed 10.1 million visitors in 2008, a decline of 1.6 percent from 2007. But visitors stayed longer, reaching 41.3 million days, which is a record increase of 8.7 percent from 2007. Moreover, Singapore posted over S$14.8 billion ($9.6 billion) in tourism receipts last year, a 4.8 percent increase from 2007 and a new record. Singapore’s hotel sector also had an impressive performance in 2008, earning over $2.1 billion in room revenue, a 12.1 percent growth from 2007.

But as the global economic downturn continues to unravel, the industry is not expected to have the same impressive performance that it had last year. STB projects that tourist income will fall between S$12 billion ($7.8 billion) and S$12.5 billion ($8 billion). It also expects tourist arrivals to drop to between 9 million and 9.5 million in 2009.

These dismal 2009 projections for the tourism industry do not seem that serious when compared with historical figures. Singapore’s tourist arrivals and tourism receipts suffered declines in the first three years of the decade amid the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2001 recession, and the SARS outbreak. But between 2004 and 2007, these figures recorded fast growth, reaching a high of 10.3 million visitors in 2007 and S$14.8 billion ($9.6 billion) in tourism receipts in 20008. The 2009 projections show only a slight decline in these numbers and are still well above the low of 6 million visitors and S$6.9 billion ($4.5 billion) in tourism receipts both reached in 2003.

But the STB is not taking any chances. In February 2009, it announced a S$90 million ($58 million) initiative to help the tourism sector during these hard economic times. The initiative, aptly called Building On Opportunities to Strengthen Tourism (BOOST), includes tactical marketing campaigns to increase demand in travel to Singapore and enhanced assistance schemes for tourism businesses. One of the marketing campaigns, called “2009 Reasons to enjoy Singapore”,  focuses on enticing visitors with travel packages and promotions offered in value-for-money prices. STB is also working with airlines, travel agents, travel portals, attractions and retailers to develop more offers to help encourage people to visit Singapore. The initiative will emphasize on its top markets for tourists (Indonesia, China, India and Malaysia ) as well as on its top markets for stopover travelers (Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom).

Despite its small contribution to the country’s overall GDP, hovering between 5 to 6 percent, Singapore’s tourism industry remains to be a significant part of the country’s economy. The industry provides Singapore a way to showcase its potential not only as a trade and economic powerhouse, but also as a hub for entertainment, media, and culture in Southeast Asia.

Source: www.AsiaEcon.org

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Source: www.asiaecon.org |

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