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February 4, 2009

Singapore Tourism:
Arrivals decline but revenue up in 2008

Singapore collected an estimated S$14.8 billion in tourism receipts last year, setting a new record while the number of visitors declined 1.6 per cent to 10.1 million.

Channel News Asia reported that the figure was almost five per cent higher as compared to 2007.

The tourism board said the decline in visitor arrivals reflected the impact of the global economic slowdown on consumer sentiments and discretionary spending. The visitors, however, stayed longer.

Those coming from Indonesia, China, Australia, India and Malaysia accounted for half the arrivals.

The hotel sector remained robust, achieving an all-time record of S$2.1 billion in room revenue in 2008. Average occupancy rate was estimated at 81 percent, and a hotel room costs an average S$246 a night, an increase of 22 percent.

In a related story, the Associated Press said Singapore tourism shrank last December for a seventh month, adding to the city-state's economic woes, as more visitors stayed home amid a global slowdown.

Tourist arrivals to Singapore fell to 880,000 in December, down 6.9 percent from the same month a year earlier, the Singapore Tourism Board said Tuesday. Hotels revenue dropped 7.4 percent to 141 million Singapore dollars ($93 million), the board said.

Singapore is reeling from a collapse in export demand that the government expects will contribute to the economy contracting as much as 5 percent this year. Gross domestic product shrank 12.5 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter as manufacturing, finance and tourism all suffered from the worst global downturn in decades.

"Tourism is just one more drag on the economy," said David Cohen, director of Asian economic forecasting at consultancy Action Economics in Singapore. "Singapore's economy is reasonably diversified, it's just that a whole slew of their industries are being hit now."

The government has tried to ease the country's dependence on manufacturing, but non-oil exports still account for about two-thirds of GDP while tourism is just 6 percent.

Singapore has long been the first point of entry for many travelers into Southeast Asia, and many companies, lured by the country's first-rate infrastructure, set up regional headquarters in the city-state.

But Singapore is also seeking to boost its attractiveness as a tourist destination in its own right, building two casino resorts, the first due to open later this year, and a Universal Studios amusement park in 2011. The island also hosted its first F1 race, at night, last year.

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