The Business Times

Q1 tourist arrivals stay flat on low China volumes

Nisha Ramchandani
Published Mon, Jul 21, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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[SINGAPORE] Dragged down by lower volumes from China, visitor arrivals to Singapore remained flat in the first quarter of this year at 3.9 million, although tourism receipts edged up 5 per cent year on year to S$6 billion.

According to a report released yesterday by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), tourist arrivals from China dropped 14 per cent due to the ongoing impact from tourism laws implemented in October, albeit narrowing from the 31 per cent dive in the fourth quarter of last year.

These laws include curbs on zero-dollar-tours, which try to attract Chinese tourists with bargain prices but tack on services with additional fees.

Stripping out China, visitor arrivals to Singapore would have risen 2.8 per cent.

Travel demand out of China - Singapore's second biggest source market - has also weakened recently in the wake of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in March this year.

"The biggest drop in inbound numbers has come from China, which is particularly concerning as it has been Singapore's fastest growing source market for tourists," noted the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) in a recent report on Changi Airport.

Meanwhile, STB's release yesterday showed that visitor arrivals from Indonesia - Singapore's top visitor generating country - climbed 6 per cent. But visitor arrivals from other popular source markets such as Malaysia, Australia and Japan declined one per cent, 2 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.

However, visitor arrivals from South Korea (17 per cent) and Vietnam (13 per cent) both recorded double digit growth. In the case of South Korea, the appreciation of the Korean won and budget carrier Scoot adding Seoul to its network last year has helped bolster travel. Meanwhile, outbound travel from Vietnam has been on an upward trend.

Preliminary numbers on the STB website also showed that visitor arrivals for January to April were down 0.6 per cent at 5.13 million. On average, visitor arrivals from China were down nearly 22 per cent for the four-month period.

Where tourism spend is concerned, the S$6 billion chalked up in the first quarter was largely driven by sightseeing, entertainment and gaming, which was up 19 per cent. Spend by the business travel and MICE segment also climbed 4 per cent after corporate cutbacks last year.

In the hotel industry, gazetted hotel room revenue for Q1 came in at S$0.8 billion, up 12 per cent. The average room rate (ARR) worked out to S$261, up 2.7 per cent, and the average occupancy rate (AOR) was nearly flat at 86 per cent. Revenue per available room (RevPAR) thus edged up 2.2 per cent industrywide to S$224.

Of the various hotel tiers, luxury hotels posted the biggest gains in ARR (9.5 per cent), AOR (two percentage points) and RevPAR (11.9 per cent) in 1Q14. The ARR for this tier worked out to S$467, while the 90 per cent occupancy gave rise to a RevPAR of S$420.

Economy hotels, on the other hand, suffered the biggest drops in AOR and RevPar, down 5.2 percentage points to 79 per cent and 1.8 per cent to S$83 respectively. This was despite a 4.7 per cent climb in ARR to S$105.

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