Trump-Kim summit, Crazy Rich Asians boost visitor arrivals to Singapore

Singapore's turn in the global spotlight helped propel tourist arrivals and spending to record highs for the third year in a row last year.

Total arrivals rose 6.2 per cent to 18.5 million, while tourism receipts went up by 1 per cent to $27.1 billion, according to preliminary estimates released by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) yesterday.

Two events last year put the Republic on the international stage: the historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and the release of Hollywood film Crazy Rich Asians, which was set in Singapore.

Organic search interest in Singapore increased more than three times in the US during the movie's release, according to Google data, while there was a 110 per cent spike in searches on travel planning site Orbitz, STB said.

Speaking at a media conference yesterday, STB chief executive Keith Tan noted that the Trump-Kim summit and other major events held here last year provided significant marketing value to Singapore.

Coverage of the summit saw an estimated 2.36 billion views with 8,000 pieces of online content that mentioned Singapore in its headlines, while Google registered over two million hits on the phrase "where is Singapore" from the US alone a day before the summit, he said.

While the number of tourist arrivals exceeded STB's forecast, spending did not keep pace.

This is partly because more visitors came to Singapore for a day trip or as a stop on a longer journey, resulting in shorter stays and less spending on souvenirs and gifts, STB said.

Visitors spent less on shopping (-14 per cent), food and beverage (-4 per cent) and accommodation (-5 per cent) for the first three quarters of last year, compared with the same period in 2017.

However, spending on sightseeing, entertainment and gaming rose 6 per cent, making it the second-biggest slice of the pie.

An increase in airfare revenues, driven by more visitors arriving on local full service carriers, helped a miscellaneous category that covers things like local transportation and medical tourism to grow by 21 per cent over the same period to $5.76 billion, forming the largest share of spending.

Visitor arrivals grew across almost all top 15 markets, with the biggest increases coming from the US, Britain, India and Vietnam.

China remained Singapore's biggest source of visitors - and tourist spending - with 3.4 million visitors spending $3.16 billion here between January and September last year.