Fewer Chinese visitors, strong Sing$ hit tourism

Singapore's tourism industry took a hit in the second quarter of this year, battered by a fall in the number of Chinese visitors and the strong Singapore dollar.

The two factors contributed to a lacklustre quarterly showing, with both visitor arrivals and tourism receipts declining in a single quarter, the first time since 2009 during the global financial crisis.

Singapore welcomed 3.6 million visitors between April and June this year, a 6 per cent fall from the same period last year.

Spending also fell 3 per cent from a year ago to $5.6 billion, according to the Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) quarterly report released yesterday.

But STB was unconcerned by the fall in numbers, saying the half-year results are in line with its strategy of pursuing quality tourism: tourists who spend more time here while spending more.

From January to June, arrivals fell 3 per cent year on year to 7.5 million. But spending grew 2 per cent year on year to $11.8 billion.

Arrival numbers were mainly hit by a fall in Chinese visitors. Excluding China, arrivals from other markets grew 2 per cent over the same six-month period.

China's new tourism law - which clamped down on cheap shopping tours and took effect last October - and events such as the disappearance of Flight MH370 and political unrest in Thailand kept Chinese visitors away from the region, noted STB.

But the Chinese visitors who came here stayed longer, from an average of 2.7 days last year to 4.2 days in the first half of this year.

Another factor that contributed to lower spending, especially on shopping, was the strength of the Singapore currency, said STB. From January to May, the yuan fell by more than 5 per cent against the Singapore dollar.

Spending on sightseeing, entertainment and gaming helped to partially cushion the drop in shopping expenditure, it added.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's tourism senior lecturer Michael Chiam said tourism numbers will fluctuate in the short term as it will take some time before Singapore reaches a stable state of attracting "quality tourists".

This article was first published on Oct 16, 2014.
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