Singapore Visitor Numbers Surge As Casino Opens

March 26, 2010

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Visitor arrivals in Singapore rose 24 percent in February from a year earlier to reach 857,000, the highest ever for the month as the city-state's first casino opened to lure tourists during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Hotel occupancy rose 4.9 percentage points from a year ago to 79.7 percent, though average room rates in February fell 1.5 percent from a year earlier to S$GD201 (USD$143), the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said on Friday.

The number of "visitor days" -- the overall visitor arrivals times an average length of stay for each visitor -- grew 16.3 percent in February from a year earlier to 3.3 million days.

The USD$4.7 billion Resort World on Sentosa, owned by Malaysia's Genting, opened its doors to visitors in February, and will be followed in April by a partial opening for the USD$5.5 billion Las Vegas Sands-owned Marina Bay Sands casino resort.

Visitor arrivals to Singapore may rise by 30 percent this year, helped by an economic recovery in Asia and by the two casinos, STB said this month.

Each casino is expected to contribute a value add of SGD$2.7 billion (USD$1.92 billion), or 0.5 to 1 percent, to Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015, STB estimates.

Singapore is trying to diversify into services industries such as tourism to reduce dependence on manufacturing.

But it suffered a fall in tourism as well as exports in 2009 during the financial crisis. The number of visitors to Singapore fell by 4.3 percent last year to 9.7 million, driving revenue from the sector down 19 percent to SGD$12.4 billion.

(Reuters)