How many “real” tourists come to S’pore?


Does the soaring number of tourists in S’pore enable her to become the real tourism nation?

I refer to the article “Singapore ranked 2nd most visited city in Asia-Pacific and is top in terms of tourist spending” (Straits Times, Sep 27).

It states that “Singapore has emerged as the second most visited destination in the Asia-Pacific region by international visitors in 2016 and No. 1 in terms of the amount spent by visitors.

Bangkok led the pack of Asia-Pacific cities with 19.41 million visitors last year, while Singapore had 13.22 million. The visitors to Bangkok spent US$14.1 billion (S$19 billion), while those to Singapore spent US$15.7 billion.

On a global scale, out of 132 cities, Singapore was the fifth most visited in 2016 – up from sixth in 2015 – while New York dropped one position to the sixth at 12.7 million visitors.

Top of the global list was Bangkok, followed by London, Paris and Dubai, all retaining their positions from 2015.

Most visitors to Singapore were from China, with 2.3 million Chinese visiting in 2016, compared with just 712,000 in 2009. This was followed by 2 million Indonesian visitors, 1 million Indians and 802,000 Australians.

The MasterCard data tallies with information from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in a report by The Straits Times in July. That data showed that visitors from China spent an estimated S$3.52 billion here in 2016, a 39 per cent or nearly S$1 billion increase from 2015.”

Don’t you find it somewhat puzzling that over the years – we keep hearing the rhetoric that tourist arrivals and spending keep increasing, and now we are top in Asia for tourist spending as well as sixth in the world for visitors – and yet there are so many reports that businesses that depend a lot on tourists’ business are suffering or closing down.

Over the years, iconic tourist attractions such as the Singapore Flyer, Tang Dynasty, the Crazy Horse Revue, etc, have gone out of business, or were reported to be in financial difficulties and had to be taken over by new owners.

Statistics that baffle

With regard to the ever increasing number of foreigners that are coming as tourists – how many are here to look for jobs in Singapore?

For example, tourist arrivals from the Philippines saw an increase of 24.5 per cent to 678,000 from 2010 to 2011. Just for the first six months of 2013 alone, the number is already 358,000 (these statistics are the latest that I can find).

Media reports have also said that such tourists have been able to extend their tourist visas to as long as four months to secure jobs.

Since the whole world can come as tourists to look for a job, and then stay when they find one – how many of the tourists are “real” tourists?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.