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Singapore tourism receipts in Q1 fell 4.8% amid global economic uncertainty

SPENDING by visitors to Singapore fell 4.8 per cent to S$6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2019 from the same period last year, although international arrivals ticked up by 1 per cent to 4.7 million.

Mr Poh Chi Chuan, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) director of digital transformation, said visitors may have been more conscious about spending due to ongoing risk and uncertainties in the global economy.

This includes US-China trade tensions, Brexit and currency fluctuations against the Singapore dollar, he said.

Tourism receipts fell in several markets such as China (- 1 per cent), India (- 6 per cent), the United Kingdom (- 4 per cent), Malaysia (- 34 per cent) and the Philippines (- 18 per cent).

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China remained the top market when it came to tourism receipts, contributing S$1.09 billion. Next came Indonesia at S$732 million and India at S$338 million.

Growth was observed in four out of STB’s top 10 markets – namely Indonesia, Japan, the United States and South Korea.

The US saw a 15 per cent rise in tourism receipts, and a 9 per cent rise in visitor arrivals in the first quarter, driven by the business travel and meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions (BTMICE) segment.

A slight increase in visitors who spent less time in Singapore due to the way their travel itineraries were structured was also seen. These visitors include day trippers, visitors who twin Singapore with other destinations, and cruise passengers.

"Although these visitors tend to spend less, they still contribute positively to our tourism receipts," Mr Poh said.

Of the S$6.5 billion in total tourism receipts, other tourism receipt components made up 29 per cent or S$1.87 billion of the total amount, up 2 per cent from a year ago. These components include expenditure on airfares on Singapore-based carriers, port taxes, local transportation, as well as expenditure by business, medical, education and transfer or transit visitors.

Sightseeing, entertainment and gaming contributed 22 per cent or S$1.46 billion, down 3 per cent from a year ago; while shopping contributed 21 per cent or S$1.37 billion, down 7 per cent year-on-year.

Accommodation took up 19 per cent of tourism receipts or S$1.26 billion, down 12 per cent from a year ago; while food and beverage accounted for S$588 million, down 7 per cent.

China topped international visitor arrivals for the first quarter, up 3 per cent year-on-year to 960,000 visitors. Next was Indonesia, whose number of visitors fell 3 per cent year-on-year to 725,000; followed by India, which rose 2 per cent to 300,000 from a year ago.

Gazetted hotel room revenue rose 4.3 per cent rise to S$1 billion. Average occupancy rate was at 86 per cent, edging down 0.6 percentage points from a year ago. Average room rate grew by 1 per cent to S$222 and revenue per available room held steady at 0.3 per cent year-on-year to S$189 in the quarter.

On the outlook for the sector, Mr Poh said: "We remain cautiously optimistic about our tourism performance this year, taking into account global factors that might affect consumer confidence and travel sentiments."

STB said it will continue to enhance its range of attractions and events. This includes a pipeline of tourism offerings in the mid to long term – like the upcoming Mandai Nature precinct and tourism development in Jurong Lake District.

It will also continue in its efforts to rejuvenate existing tourism belts like Orchard Road, the integrated resorts and Wildlife Reserves Singapore parks.

Moreover, it will work closely with industry stakeholders to encourage day trippers to extend their stay in Singapore to boost higher per capita expenditure.

Marketing efforts in tier two cities of key source markets will be continued, along with the sourcing of other markets with good growth potential.

"These are part of our diversification strategy in order to ensure that Singapore remains a resilient and compelling tourism destination, and we will continue our efforts on this front," Mr Poh said.