Rise of global middle class to boost S’pore’s tourism

Published: 4:12 AM, March 20, 2014

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s tourism sector is projected to expand further this year and create even more new jobs, as rising incomes of a growing global middle class drive demand, said a report released yesterday.

The travel and tourism industry accounted for S$19.1 billion, or 5.3 per cent, of Singapore’s economy last year, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said. This is forecast to rise by 5.8 per cent to S$20.3 billion this year.

Employment in the sector is also expected to increase by 3.8 per cent this year from last year’s 147,000 jobs.

“It is clear that the growth in travel and tourism demand from emerging markets continues with pace, as the burgeoning middle classes, especially from Asia and Latin America, are willing and more able than ever to travel both within and beyond their borders,” said WTTC President and Chief Executive David Scowsill.

The observation is in line with the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) outlook for visitor arrivals to increase by 5 to 8 per cent to between 16.3 million and 16.8 million this year, and for tourism receipts to rise by 2 to 5 per cent to between S$23.8 billion and S$24.6 billion.

Travel industry players told TODAY that business so far this year has been encouraging, leading them to expect this year’s performance to top last year’s.

“Sentosa has seen good growth in the current financial year (ending March 31). Overall, the tourism outlook, especially for Asia, is positive, with rising wealth among (the) emerging middle class driving growth and spending,” said Sentosa Development Corporation Chief Executive Mike Barclay.

This bullish outlook has led investors to bring new attractions onto the island, among them the famed Madame Tussauds wax museum that is set to open in the second half of this year, added Mr Barclay.

Changi Airport Group, who handled a record number of passengers last year, said the early Chinese New Year holiday this year helped to set the tone for 2014. In January, 4.6 million passengers passed through Changi Airport, 6 per cent higher than the same period last year.

“This is driven by growth within the Asia-Pacific region and boosted by increased travel during the Chinese New Year, which occurred at an earlier date this year. Our expectation for passenger traffic growth this year is between 3 and 5 per cent,” said a spokesperson, adding that retail spending at the airport has also increased as a result.

In the hospitality segment, Ascott said demand for its luxury serviced apartments was supported by the inflow of foreign investment and Singapore’s status as a top business and leisure destination.

“Our average occupancy for the year-to-date period is already higher by more than 5 per cent compared with the same period last year. The number of long-stay guests and business travellers who stay with us has also increased,” said Regional General Manager for Singapore and Malaysia Tan Boon Khai.