Tourists flocked to Singapore in greater numbers than ever before last year, spending a record amount on gaming, sightseeing and entertainment, says the Singapore Tourism Board.
The city-state’s tourism board issued a written statement on Wednesday with data for the 2018 calendar year. Its preliminary estimate says total income from tourism rose by 1 percent to SGD27.1 billion (US$19.95 billion) last year. Spending on sightseeing, entertainment and gaming rose by 6 percent year-on-year but the board did not offer a separate figure for income in this segment.
In Wednesday’s release, the tourism board said the number of arrivals and the amount spent per visitor grew for a third year in a row, yet there were decreases in spending on shopping (14 percent), accommodation (5 percent) and food and beverage (4 percent).
The “tourism receipts” metric used by Singapore officials includes airfares bought on Singapore-based carriers, port taxes, ground transportation, business, medical, education and transit visitors. This segment grew by 21 percent last year.
The number of tourists holidaying in Singapore last year rose by 6.2 percent to about 18.5 million arrivals, with increases across most of the city state’s biggest target markets.
One of the main source markets is mainland China. China is widely assumed to be where many of the gamblers and much of the money bet in Singapore casinos come from, although gaps in the way Singapore presents statistics makes it hard to be certain.
Singapore is host to two casino resorts: Resorts World Sentosa, operated by Genting Singapore Ltd; and Marina Bay Sands, run by a unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp.
The annual amount that Chinese visitors spent in Singapore – excluding what they spent on sightseeing, entertainment and gaming – rose by 3 percent last year. The board says they spent more because more Chinese tourists visited for holidaymaking, not necessarily to gamble. The number of visitor arrivals from mainland China was up by about 5.8 percent last year compared to 2017, with nearly 3.42 million tourists visiting Singapore last year. Mainland China remained Singapore’s largest single source market for tourists.
A deeper dive into the data shows Singapore is competing for different tourist markets compared to other gaming destinations in the Asia-Pacific region. Singapore’s biggest source markets by arrivals – mainland China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Australia – vary considerably when compared to Macau, for example, which counts the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan as its top five markets.
Singapore says the number of visitors from seven of the main sources set new records last year, with India showing the biggest year-on-year increase, up 13.4 percent to 1.44 million arrivals in full-year 2018.
The tourism board forecasts that the annual number of visitors will rise by between 1 percent and 4 percent this year to between 18.7 million and 19.2 million, and that the amount they will spend will rise by between 1 percent and 3 percent to between SGD27.3 billion and SGD27.9 billion.
In 2017, Singapore said tourism receipts were SGD26.8 billion, a year-on-year improvement of 3.9 percent.
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"The most worrying [thing] is whether [mainland] China will again tighten the issuance of travel visas [for visits to Macau]"
Luiz Lam Kai Kuong
Macau junket investor