Singapore tourist arrivals decline after torrid 2020

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
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The number of visitors arriving to Singapore in 2020 declined almost 90 per cent, while the outlook for tourism arrivals and receipts is likely to remain weak in 2020.

GGR Asia reports that Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority said in its annual report for 2019-20 that most users of Singapore’s two casino complexes – Resorts World Sentosa, promoted by Genting Singapore and Marina Bay Sands, promoted by a unit of United States-based Las Vegas Sands Corp, are non-Singaporeans.

A November note from Maybank Investment Bank Bhd, suggested that Genting Singapore’s return to profit in the third quarter had been aided by local players, amid the widespread travel restrictions around the region.

Of the 2.74 million visitor arrivals to Singapore in 2020, around 88.4 per cent or 2.42 million were recorded for the first two months of that year, according to the tourism board’s latest statistics.

Southeast Asia was the largest single source region, providing 896,550 arrivals.

The tally was nevertheless an 86.5 per cent year-on-year decline.

Singapore had 2.16 million overnight visitors for 2020, an 85.1 per cent year-on-year decline.

The average length of stay among all visitors was 4.29 days, the official data indicate.

The city-state has faced “unprecedented global travel restrictions and border closures”, which led to the decline in its visitor tally and tourism receipts, the tourism board statement said.

Tourism receipts in the first three quarters of 2020 declined by 78.4 per cent year-on-year to US$3.3 billion.

Singapore saw a sequential increase in the monthly visitor-arrival tally, starting in May, as the city-state gradually eased entry restrictions for people from certain places.

From December 18, travellers from Taiwan are exempted from a quarantine period, provided they hold a test result showing them “negative” for COVID-19.

Before that, there had been some easing of conditions for travellers from, respectively, Australia, Brunei, mainland China, New Zealand and Vietnam.

For the full month of December, Singapore had 24,010 visitors, the highest monthly tally since March 2020, according to the tourism board’s latest data.

“Singapore Tourism Board remains confident in Singapore’s position as one of the world’s safest and most attractive leisure and business destinations, and in the long-term prospects of Singapore’s tourism sector,” the tourism body’s chief executive Keith Tan, was cited as saying in the Monday release.

The Monday statement highlighted that 2021 was still likely to see weak numbers, tourist-wide, on the ground that it will take time for leisure travel and traveller confidence to return, even with the development of vaccines against COVID-19.

Impact of Singapore’s annual casino levy revealed

It has been more than a year since Singapore increased the cost of a daily or yearly casino entry pass, with the financial impact and patronage figures recently released.

GGR Asia reported in November that when the fees increased by 50 per cent from April 4, 2019, local adults visiting casinos dropped 1.3 per cent, according to Tan Tee How, chairman of the city-state’s Casino Regulatory Authority.

The levy increase, which made an annual pass cost US$2195, had been done to “ensure that Singaporeans continue to be protected against the potential harms of casino gambling,” Mr Tan noted in his annual report.

He indicated that “one year after the increase” casino visits made by Singapore citizens and permanent residents dropped to 2.7 per cent of the local population, from four per cent in the 2018 financial year.

Mr Tan added: “Since casinos opened in 2010, the probable problem- and pathological-gambling rate has decreased from 2.6 per cent to 0.9 per cent in 2017.

“This suggests that the local safeguards have been effective,” he said.

Separately, the CRA provided some figures on casino visits by locals for the years 2017 to 2018, in response to an enquiry from Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao.

According to the report, the authority told it that in financial year 2017, “approximately” 130,000 locals visited casinos.

In 2018, that figure was 127,000 and the year of the levy increase, 2019, boasted a figure of 88,000.

This year, Singapore’s two casino resorts – Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa were closed from April 7 as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The casinos reopened on July 1.

Upon reopening, the gaming facilities were available only to certain participants in membership schemes, or to annual levy pass holders, at a time when most foreigners were not being permitted to enter Singapore.

During the period covered by the 2019-20 CRA report, Marina Bay Sands’ promoter received fines totalling almost A$150,000 for four breaches of the city’s Casino Control Act.

Resorts World Sentosa’s promoter also received a fine of about A$20,000 for a breach of the act. 

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