SINGAPORE: The Singapore tourism industry had a record year in 2018, with 18.5 million visitor arrivals - a 6.2 per cent spike from the year before.
Tourists to the island spent a projected S$27.1 billion, also a new high and an increase of 1 per cent from 2017, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), which shared preliminary estimates for 2018 in a press release on Wednesday (Feb 13).
Receipts and arrivals from the Business Travel and Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conventions and Exhibitions (BTMICE) sector saw bumper growth.
From January to September last year, BTMICE spending rose by 10 per cent to S$3.44 billion, compared to the same period in 2017, while visitor arrivals rose 14 per cent year-on-year to hit 2 million.
STB highlighted that it took advantage of opportunities in 2018 to promote Singapore as a destination - via events such as the launch of movie Crazy Rich Asians which is set in Singapore, the Trump-Kim Summit and the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.
Singapore also held the ASEAN chairmanship in 2018 and as such, there were more ASEAN-related events and meetings hosted by the country during the year, said STB.
Singapore relies on tourism for about 4 per cent of its economic output.
MORE SPENT ON SIGHTSEEING, LESS ON SOUVENIRS
Tourism spending grew mainly on the back of growth in visitor numbers, as there were declines in spending on shopping (-14 per cent), accommodation (-5 per cent) and food and beverage (-4 per cent).
This was because there were more day-trippers to Singapore and more travellers who went to multiple destinations, resulting in shorter stays in the country, STB shared. There was also less spending on souvenirs and gifts.
However, visitors splashed out on other past-times, such as sightseeing, entertainment and gaming, which saw a 6 per cent hike.
The largest increase (21 per cent) came from "other tourism receipts", which STB said was mainly due to a rise in airfare revenue as more visitors flew in on Singapore-based carriers.
GROWTH IN 14 TOP MARKETS
The growth in visitor numbers was driven by record-high visitor arrivals from seven of Singapore's top 15 markets - China, India, The Philippines, The United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam and Germany, STB said.
Fourteen of these markets registered growth in 2018, said STB.
Arrivals from India, in particular, rose 13 per cent with cruise arrivals going up by 27 per cent. The number of visitors from China, Singapore's largest market, went up by 6 per cent.
STB attributed the rise to greater air connectivity and the agency's marketing into more cities within the countries.
"For China and India, there was growth from both tier one and tier two cities, due to strong travel demand and increased flight connectivity," said STB.
For example, there were new and increased flights last year between Singapore and Nanchang, Haikou and Jinan in China, as well as new flights to Guwahati, Pune and Vijaywada in India.
STRONG YEAR FOR HOTELS, CRUISE INDUSTRY
The hotel industry continued to do well in 2018, with higher room revenue (7.4 per cent) that reached S$4 billion.
Hotel occupancy rose by 1.2 percentage points to 86 per cent and the average room rate increased 0.9 per cent year-on-year to S$219.
The number of cruise passengers jumped by 35 per cent to reach 1.87 million.
STB chief executive Keith Tan said 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," he said.
For 2019, STB forecasts tourism receipts to be in the range of S$27.3 to S$27.9 billion and international visitor arrivals to rise to the range of 18.7 to 19.2 million.
"We are still forecasting growth from China this year. It will probably be a little bit more moderate compared to past years," said Mr Tan.