[SINGAPORE] Visitor arrivals in Singapore slipped 2.8 per cent year on year to 7.5 million in the first half of 2014 as the number of Chinese visitors during the six month period slumped 30 per cent.
Stripping out China, visitor arrivals in Singapore would have been up 2.3 per cent, according to a report from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) released on Tuesday.
New tourism laws in China, implemented in October last year, which clamp down on "zero-dollar tours" that hit tourists with surprise fees have contributed to falling tourist volumes from China. The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in March this year, political tensions in Thailand and the spate of kidnappings in Sabah have also affected tourism demand. Chinese tourists typically travel to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as part of a multi- destination tour.
Some 1.53 million visitors from Indonesia - Singapore's top visitor generating market - came here in the first six months of the year, up 3 per cent year on year. China is the second biggest source market for Singapore, with 871,000 travellers coming here in H1 2014, down 30 per cent.
The STB report also highlighted that the decline in Chinese visitor arrivals came largely from the segment of Chinese travellers that came to stay one day or less. The number of Chinese visitors that stayed for a day or less fell 52 per cent to 401,000, although those staying two days or more rose by 21 per cent to 406,000 in H1 2014. This lifted the average length of stay by Chinese visitors from 2.7 days in H1 2013 to 4.2 days in H1 2014.
Other countries which account for Singapore's top five visitor generating markets - namely Malaysia (-2 per cent), Australia (-3 per cent) and India (-1 per cent) - reported slight decreases as well.
Meanwhile, markets which saw double digit increases in tourists in Singapore in H1 2014 include Hong Kong (16 per cent), South Korea (16 per cent) and Vietnam (12 per cent).
"Unless we see a significant turnaround in Chinese tourists in H2 2014, we estimate overall visitor arrivals for the full year to fall by 2.5-3.5 per cent to 15-15.2 million visitors, the first time since the 2008 global financial crisis that Singapore experienced a decline in tourist arrivals," said CIMB economist Song Seng Wun.
The STB has forecast visitor arrivals to clock 16.3-16.8 million this year, and tourism receipts to hit S$23.8-24.6 billion. Last year, Singapore welcomed 15.5 million tourists, who spent S$23.5 billion.
"As we move forward into the second half of 2014, we are hopeful that we will continue to see an increase in quality visitors - bringing with them not only a recovery in visitor arrivals, but also an increased tourism expenditure," said Anita Tan, chief operating officer of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas).
Ms Tan said that Natas members have been working together with industry stakeholders and partners to reach out to overseas markets and attract tourists via roadshows and other activities. For instance, in November, Natas and airport operator Changi Airport Group (CAG) are organising a Singapore Pavilion at the China International Travel Mart 2014 in Shanghai, where a delegation of travel agents and other travel organisations will participate.
Meanwhile, gazetted hotel room revenue increased 8.8 per cent to S$1.55 billion for the six months spanning January to June. The average room rate inched up 1.2 per cent to about S$258, while the average occupancy rate slipped 1.2 per cent to nearly 85 per cent. Revenue per available room was more or less flat at S$218.
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