China claims high spot for customer arrivals in Singapore

People enjoy the decorations with Christmas lights at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore in December. (Photo by Jetjaras Na Ranong)

SINGAPORE: China has overtaken Indonesia to become Singapore’s top source market for tourist arrivals, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said in its year-in-review report on Monday.

Notching new highs for the second consecutive year, 17.4 million tourists blew a record S$26.8 billion in the Republic last year,  reported.

New records were set last year for both tourism spend and visitor arrivals, surpassing targets set in both categories.

Visitor arrivals were up about 6%, whereas preliminary estimates showed tourism spend to be some 3.9% higher than 2016. The increase in visitor spending is due mainly to growth in the number of visitors from the top 10 markets, said the STB.

China tourists led the charge, with more than 3.2 million visitors here last year, a jump of 13% from 2016’s figures, setting a new record. Last year also saw China — Singapore’s second biggest tourist source market since 2003 — beating Indonesia off the top spot, a position it has occupied for 20 years.

Excluding sightseeing, entertainment and gaming, Chinese tourists were also the top spenders for the third consecutive year. Preliminary estimates in tourism receipts from January to September last year showed that they shelled out more than S$3 billion (71 billion baht) here, with the bulk of it going to shopping.

China, alongside the United States and United Kingdom, registered the highest absolute growth, year-on-year, in tourism receipts excluding sightseeing, entertainment and gaming, said the STB.

For China and the UK, which saw increases of 10% and 24% respectively, that growth was attributed to a larger number of leisure travellers and higher spending on shopping.

As for the US, which notched an increase of 22%, it was because of a larger number of business travellers coming to the Republic.

Generally, the STB noted that last year, tourists were spending more on shopping and sightseeing, gaming, and entertainment.

Spending for food and beverage, however, saw a drop of 5% from 2016’s data for the first three quarters of the year. The STB attributed the dip to lower spend on fine dining, which offset growth in casual dining and hawker food.

Although Indonesia fell to second place last year for visitor arrivals, the 2.95 million visitors who came still represented an increase of 2% over 2016.

Other noteworthy trends last year included Vietnam inching into Singapore’s top 10 markets for visitor arrivals for the first time, with a 13% increase, year-on-year, to hit 531,000 visitors.

Australia visitor arrivals also saw growth for the first time since 2014, noted the STB, as it hit 1.08 million visitors, an increase of 5% from 2016.

Tourist arrivals from Hong Kong, meanwhile, tumbled 13% to hit 466,000, putting it out of the top 10 markets last year.

Across the various tourism industries, the STB noted strong growth in the cruise sector. Passenger throughput for last year grew 17%, setting a new record with 1.38 million passengers.

In the Business Travel and Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conventions and Exhibitions (BTMice) sector, visitor arrivals for the first three quarters of last year saw a dip of 5%, to hit 1.75 million arrivals.

Despite the drop, tourism receipts from BTMice, excluding sightseeing, entertainment and gambling, notched a 4% growth in the same period, to S$3.15 million.

Commenting on the Republic’s strong tourism showing, STB chief executive Lionel Yeo said: “The combined efforts of STB and our industry partners yielded strong results, against a context of better-than-expected global economic recovery, continued growth in Asia-Pacific travel and increased flight and cruise connectivity to Singapore.”

For the coming year, the STB is forecasting tourism receipts to hit between S$27.1 and S$27.6 billion, buoyed by a better global economic outlook, as well as a growth in Asia-Pacific tourism.

As for international visitor arrivals, the STB has set the target of between 17.6 and 18.1 million arrivals.

“STB will augment its marketing efforts and roll out more initiatives in destination attractiveness and industry competitiveness to stay on course for quality tourism growth,” the agency said on Monday.

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