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Mixed tourism sector performance in 2015 in the face of global headwinds

Last year, visitor arrivals grew by 0.9 per cent to 15.2 million and tourism receipts declined by 6.8 per cent to S$22.0 billion1. The fall in tourism receipts was largely due to a decline in BTMICE visitor arrivals and spending. This mixed performance came on the back of various headwinds such as an uncertain global economic outlook and weak currencies in some of Singapore's top source markets in 2015.


Singapore Tourism Board (STB) Chief Executive Mr Lionel Yeo said, "We are encouraged by the upturn in visitor arrivals from May onwards that led to a positive growth for the whole of 2015.  Of particular note is the 2 per cent growth in leisure visitor arrivals2 in 2015, which helped offset the decline in BTMICE visitor arrivals. This shows that Singapore remains attractive as a leisure destination." ​


"As the average BTMICE visitor spends about two times more than the average leisure visitor, the fall in BTMICE visitor arrivals and spending due to companies cutting back on both travel and trip budgets has had a significant impact on our tourism receipts," added Mr Yeo.


Market Highlights

By Tourism Receipts

The top growth-markets for 2015 tourism receipts were Japan (+6%) and United Kingdom (+4%). Tourism receipts from Japan rose due to greater BTMICE traffic, while more leisure visitors from UK who also spent more helped to boost tourism receipts.


The decline in tourism receipts was most keenly felt in Indonesia (-21%), Australia (-10%) and Malaysia (-26%) markets. These markets had faced economic challenges and seen their currencies depreciated against the Singapore dollar. Consequently, there were fewer visitor arrivals and less spending from these markets.

By International Visitor Arrivals

The top growth-markets for 2015 visitor arrivals were China (+22%), India (+7%), South Korea (+7%) and Taiwan (+12%). Notably, there were more visitor arrivals from both tier 1 and secondary cities in China and India, where STB had intensified its marketing and channel development efforts.


The largest declines were posted by Indonesia (-10%), Malaysia (-5%), Australia (-3%) and Japan (-4%) markets where macroeconomic factors including currency depreciation and an uncertain economic outlook had dampened outbound travel sentiments.


Key Highlights in 2015

Intensified Marketing Efforts

Riding on the international attention that Singapore garnered for its Golden Jubilee year, STB amplified its marketing efforts by collaborating with tourism industry stakeholders to launch a S$20 million Golden Jubilee global marketing campaign in seven key markets.


The Board also put in place strategic partnerships with Changi Airport Group, Singapore Airlines and TripAdvisor to promote Singapore as the destination of choice.

Key Growth Areas – Cruise and Business Events

Cruise and Business Events were good growth segments in 2015, turning in good results.

The cruise industry saw year-on-year cruise passenger throughput rise by 14 per cent to 1.0 million, and nine maiden calls that were new to Singapore and Southeast Asia. Singapore's appeal as a cruise destination also continued to be strengthened with more international cruise brands such as TUI Cruises choosing to homeport here.


STB supported more than 350 business events held in 2015, a 27 per cent year-on-year growth. These events generated 287,000 visitor arrivals and S$478 million in tourism receipts. The event line-up featured major events such as World LPG Forum, INTERPOL World 2015 and Gastech Conference & Exhibition, which all took place in Singapore or Asia for the very first time. STB also attracted more Meetings & Incentive events, including five new large-scale ones that brought in a total of over 25,000 participants.  

Maintaining Destination Attractiveness

Singapore's vibrant tourism landscape continued to be enhanced with new and refreshed attractions such as the National Gallery Singapore, Indian Heritage Centre and Asian Civilisations Museum, as well as exciting new hotel concepts like South Beach Hotel and Hotel Vagabond. Its calendar of events also remained robust.  Besides perennial favourites such as ZoukOut, Singapore Night Festival and Singapore Grand Prix, there were also new ones like Totem by Cirque Du Soleil as well as those that have been growing bigger and better, for instance, Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay, which attracted a turn-out of 1.6 million (an estimated 40 per cent of which were visitors).​

Enhancing industry competitiveness

To boost industry capability and competitiveness, STB rolled out initiatives such as the Hotel Sector Manpower Plan for the Hotels industry and capability development initiatives for tourist guides and the MICE industry.


STB also introduced a new grant scheme called the Experience Step-Up Fund (ESF). The ESF encourages Singapore-registered entities to develop new tourism experiences that will enhance overall visitor experience and satisfaction in Singapore. To date, the Board has received more than 80 applications for the ESF and expects more to come in by the end of the application period in February 2016.


2016 Outlook

For 2016, STB forecasts tourism receipts to be in the range of S$22.0 to $22.4 billion (0 – 2%) and international visitor arrivals in the range of 15.2 to 15.7 million (0 – 3%).


Global economic growth may be hampered by the slower growth momentum of the Chinese and US economies as well as uncertainties such as ongoing reforms in China and the impact of the normalisation of the US monetary conditions. Increasing regional competition will also pose challenges to Singapore's tourism sector. At the same time, Singapore remains poised to benefit from the projected growth in outbound travel in the Asia Pacific region3. The pipeline for business events also continues to be strong.

STB will continue to intensify its marketing efforts by expanding into more secondary cities in Singapore's top source markets, and building more marketing partnerships with trade and non-trade partners such as airlines and banks. It will also run global campaigns to reinforce the perception of Singapore as a top business event destination and work with trade partners to drive business event attendance.

To boost industry competitiveness, STB will introduce manpower-related initiatives for other tourism industries in addition to the sector manpower plan that it had already implemented for the Hotels industry last year. It will also partner stakeholders to develop more in-depth and holistic experiences such as themed and immersive trails and digital solutions in more cultural precincts to bring out the heritage of the precincts in a more compelling manner.

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