Singapore Tourism Board (STB) today announced record growth for the island nation’s tourism sector in 2017.
Tourism receipts and visitor arrivals achieved record highs, however the business events industry saw mixed results. The number of business travellers and Meetings, Incentive, Conventions and Exhibitions (BTMICE) industry visitors dropped by five per cent to 1.75 million in 2017, however this decline was offset by an increase in spending.
For the first three quarters of 2017, tourism receipts from the BTMICE segment grew by four per cent to S$3.15 billion, with visitors spending more on accommodation, shopping and flights.
Singapore Tourism Board deputy chief executive, Melissa Ow, attributes the drop in arrival numbers largely to business travel.
“We believe a lot of the decline in BTMICE arrivals is due to a contraction in business travel. Notwithstanding we know for a fact, based on the events that we support across corporate meetings, incentive travel conventions and exhibitions, most, if not all, have seen an increase in attendance. The likes of InnovFest Unbound saw an 80 per cent increase in attendance, while the Fintech Festival saw a very healthy 30 per cent growth in 2017.”
Overall tourism receipts rose by 3.9 per cent to S$26.8 billion, thanks to an increase in the number of visitors from high-spending markets such as China, South Korea, the US and the UK. Visitor arrivals increased by 6.2 per cent to 17.4 million, with strong growth across major markets.
Singapore Tourism Board chief executive, Lionel Yeo, said: “The combined efforts of STB and our industry partners yielded strong results, against a context of better-than-expected global economic recovery, continued growth in Asia-Pacific travel and increased flight and cruise connectivity to Singapore.
“Together with significant initiatives to support industry innovation and competitiveness, we made excellent progress in 2017 towards our vision of quality tourism growth.”
Growth in tourism receipts from China and UK was attributed to an increase in leisure visitors and higher spend on shopping. However, spend from the US market was buoyed by an increase in BTMICE visitor arrivals from this market.
Declines in tourism receipts were posted by Indonesia (-7%), India (-1%) and Japan (- 9%), mostly due to fewer BTMICE visitor arrivals. In the case of India and Japan, this was coupled with BTMICE visitors spending less.
In an effort to build an increasingly competitive tourism sector, STB worked with the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) and the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) to launch a Hotel Innovation Challenge and a Travel Agents Innovation Challenge in 2017.
Aimed at encouraging technology adoption among industry stakeholders, the initiative saw more than 30 hotels participate and test innovations in AI, robotics and facial recognition, while eight travel agents agreed to work with suppliers to co-develop and test new solutions.
While winning solutions were awarded grants and are currently in testing phase, STB’s chief technology officer, Quek Choon Yang, said the organisation would continue to support tech innovation. “The industry is smart and many hoteliers have already cottoned on to technology trends,” he said.
STB is also collaborating with hotel stakeholders to launch a three-year Hotel Careers Campaign to attract young local talent to join the hospitality industry.