In 2018, Singapore’s tourism sector had achieved new heights, with the highest tourism rate recorded. It was also the third consecutive year where there was strong growth for the tourism sector. According to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), tourism receipts (TR) rose 1.0 per cent to S$27.1 billion while overall visitor arrivals (VA) rose by 6.2 per cent to 18.5 million.
While the number of visitors exceeded the STB’s forecast, spending did not keep up as many visitors are day-trippers or came to Singapore as a stop on a longer journey, resulting in shorter stays and less spending. That said, there was growth in tourist spending.
Given the good performance, Chief Executive of STB, Mr Keith Tan said, “We are pleased that Singapore’s tourism sector performed well in 2018 despite some economic uncertainties. We were fortunate to have benefited from a confluence of positive factors such as strong Asia-Pacific travel demand, increased flight connectivity to Singapore, and various high-profile events.”
There were two major high-profile events in Singapore last year. One being the historic Trump Kim Summit between America’s leader Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. The other one was the release of a Hollywood movie featuring all Asian cast-Crazy Rich Asians, which was filmed in Singapore and a few others places in Malaysia.
The former has garnered Singapore a reputation for being capable in holding important high profile events internationally. In fact, the geographical location of Singapore was googled over two million times by Google users in the US a day before the Summit. Likewise, the latter has attracted many tourists to visit attractions showcased in the film, such as Marina Bay Sands and Raffles Hotel.
Also, China, Indonesia and India continued to be the top three contributing markets for visitor arrivals to Singapore in 2018, with China being 6%, Indonesia being 2% and India being 13%. These three countries also spent the most between January and September last year, with the Chinese spending 3.1 billion, Indonesians spending 2.1 billion and Indians spending 1.3 billion.
Despite such a positive outlook, challenges are still expected in the year ahead due to the volatile political and economic climate in the world. With the possible 2019 General Election happening in Singapore, ongoing trade war between China and US, decline of China exports and the European market, the future seems uncertain and bleak.
Yet, such concerns are likely to be dismissed as the tourism sector contributed little to the GDP growth in Singapore.According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the direct contribution of the travel & tourism sector to Singapore’s GDP was 4.1 per cent in 2017, and forecasted to rise by 2.6% in 2018.
Also, PM Lee Hsien Loong had announced in February that the European Parliament has approved the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This is highly beneficial as the EU is currently the largest investor and a major trading partner of Singapore. This FTA will allow better access to each other’s markets and provide ample investment and business opportunities.