SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore reported fewer international visitors last year, the first annual fall since 2009, hurt by a stronger Singapore dollar and a drop in the number of Chinese tourists amid slower regional tourism growth.
International visitor arrivals fell three per cent last year to 15.1 million, missing the Singapore Tourism Board’s forecast of an increase of five to eight per cent from 2013.
However, visitors stayed longer and spent more, helping tourism receipts stay flat at S$23.5 billion ($17.3 billion), according to preliminary estimates.
Singapore, which relies on tourism for about four per cent of its economic output, is often a pitstop for travellers who combine it with trips to neighbouring countries. But two mishaps involving Malaysian Airlines flights, political unrest in Thailand and a new Chinese law that clamps down on ultra-cheap tour packages have taken their toll.
VIP volumes are also under pressure at Singapore’s two glitzy casinos, Las Vegas Sands’ Marina Bay Sands and Genting Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa, as China’s corruption crackdown and economic slowdown reduce the number of wealthy players at their tables.
The STB did not give a forecast for 2015 on Wednesday, but said it would not be able to meet a 10-year plan to grow visitor arrivals to 17 million this year due to unforeseen circumstances such the 2008 global financial crisis.