Middle East visitors are contributing to Singapore’s record-setting tourism growth, according to new figures.
In total, Singapore welcomed 4.9 million visitor arrivals from January to June 2007, achieving an estimated S$6.4 billion ($4.3 billion) in tourism receipts.
The Middle East region was a major contributor to this trend, with total visitor arrivals growing 21.5 percent year-on-year. All the GCC markets saw more visitors to Singapore compared to a year ago, with strong double digit growth from key markets like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, according to tourism board officials.
In addition, Iran has also emerged as a dynamic market for Singapore, showing significant growth in visitor numbers in 2007.
“Singapore is benefiting from increased interest across the Middle East, particularly as people come to appreciate its family-friendly, exciting offerings,” said Ke-Wei Peh, area director for MEA region, Singapore Tourism Board. “We welcomed a higher volume of visitors in the first six months of the year from every country in the GCC, and look to see increased growth as more countries discover the unique attractions of Singapore.”
As of July 2007, the strongest growth has been from Iran with 46 per cent increase in arrivals, Peh said. “We have seen more than 20 per cent from the other places like UAE, Qatar, Kuwait too. We are expecting to close with an overall 18 per cent growth rate year to year.”
Special promotional offers have helped drive interest in Singapore’s offering through 2007. A special promotional deal with Sri Lankan Holidays, which enabled travellers flying to Singapore to extend their flight to any point in South India for only Dh500 ($136.1), has proved enormously successful.
“STB has offered a number of special promotional offers in 2007, which have proved extremely attractive, particularly those which have enabled visitors to make Singapore a key stop on their tours of Asia,” said Peh.
The hotel sector also posted outstanding performance with hotel occupancy and room rates at an all time high. For the January to June 2007 period, the Average Room Rate (ARR) grew by 19.5 per cent to S$192 ($127), while Average Occupancy Rate (AOR) reached 86 per cent, he said.
Tourism in Singapore has always been popular, but with cities like Malaysia gaining popularity, Peh said the need was not to stay ahead of the game, but to sell the two destinations together.
“There is no competition between us. We target the same traveller and it would help us better to encourage them to travel to twin destinations benefiting all of us. We need to work together to our own benefit,” he told TTN over the telephone.
“The pie is big enough for all of us. Singapore offers a very unique experience. An Arab traveller can come shopping in Singapore and then visit the islands in Malaysia and unlike Hong Kong which is predominantly Chinese, we are more Arab-friendly with our halal certified restaurants and plenty of mosques. What is important for us is to create market awareness. Currently we are investing close to $1 million every year and this will grow when the arrivals numbers grow.”
Beyond the shopping, he said, Singapore was finding favour as a family destination. He pointed to family friendly attractions like the Singapore zoo, bird parks, the Sentosa island, adding that medical tourism is also an important aspect Singapore tourism is looking to grow.
With Eid around the corner, he added, the board wants to develop some packages for travellers in the region.
“We are also working with Thai Airways for Eid, promoting cruise traffic. The average nights for an Arab traveller is five days to a week, so they have the option of extending their packages to our neighbouring countries like Malaysia or Thailand,” he said.
In 2006, Singapore saw 82,000 visitor arrivals from the Middle East. This alone was a 17 per cent increase in growth over 2005. Top markets from the region have been the UAE (nationals and expatriates), Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait.
by Shalu Chandran
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