Easing visa restrictions for tourists from key markets including China, India and Russia could help Singapore attract 358,000 to 504,000 more visitors in 2016 than under current policies, suggests a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), an agency of the United Nations.
Data from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), released in mid-October, show that in the second quarter the number of mainland Chinese tourists visiting Singapore fell 47 percent year-on-year, and nearly 44 percent judged quarter-on-quarter.
During the same period, overall tourism receipts actually fell 3 percent year-on-year, to SGD5.6 billion (US$4.3 billion), mainly from a decline in shopping.
However Singapore’s revenues from ‘sightseeing, entertainment and gaming’ – mostly consisting of the casino gambling component – actually rose 12 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2014, to just over SGD1.47 billion, according to data from the STB.
The latest report by WTTC and UNWTO, called The Impact of Visa Facilitation in ASEAN Member States – a reference to a club of southeast Asian nations of which Singapore is a part, was based on UNWTO tourist arrival numbers for Singapore in 2013. Those data indicate 11.9 million visitors in that period. Singapore Tourism Board’s own numbers suggest there were 15.6 million arrivals that year.
A WTTC spokeswoman told Singapore media outlet Today that UNWTO’s numbers are generally seen as the most authoritative and consistent source across countries.
Singapore should consider e-visa programmes and regional agreements for visa facilitation and maximise infocomm technology to improve visa procedures, said the WTTC.
Such measures could bring in an additional SGD768 million to SGD1.08 billion in tourism receipts, estimated the report.
Singapore’s casinos face increased regional competition, and “potential changes to gaming policies that weigh on their medium-term growth and profitability outlook”, said credit research agency Fitch Ratings Inc in a statement issued on October 30.
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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