Monday, January 21, 2008

2007 Tourist Arrivals Hit Record Peak for Singapore

THE hotel sector looks set to continue its spectacular rebound as room rates and visitor numbers hit record levels and the city-state unveils numerous attractions, experts say.

The inaugural Singapore Airshow, which bills itself as Asia's largest aerospace and defence event, starts the year off with thousands of foreign visitors expected in February.

About the same time the Singapore Flyer, the largest observation wheel in the world, is to open.

Events will peak in September when Singapore's first Formula One Grand Prix races through the city's famously pristine streets.

Even before the new attractions open, Singapore's tourist arrivals has hit fresh peaks, with record high visitor numbers every month last year, said Quek Swee Kuan, deputy chief executive for international operations at the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

“Similarly, the hotel sector has had an exceptional year, with hotel occupancy and room rates at an all-time high,” Quek said.

Latest STB figures showed 837,000 visitors in November, the largest number ever for that month, while average hotel room rates set a new milestone at S$226 (RM520) a night, up almost 30% over the previous year.

The average occupancy rate in November was 88%, meaning rooms were virtually filled every night, analysts said.

Some observers say the higher room rates should not deter visitors as accommodation at local four or five-star hotels are still cheaper than elsewhere in the region.

“Looking at the region, Singapore rates are not that high compared to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo,” said Chee Hok Yean, executive vice-president of property consultancy at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels.

“It's still relatively affordable compared to some of the other markets.”

The experience of other Asian cities and even New York has shown that, as long as there are attractions to draw tourists, visitors will come even if room rates are high, she said.

But Jane Chang, a marketing communications executive with Chan Brothers Travel agency, said finding rooms at competitive rates for leisure travellers has become increasingly difficult.

“This is especially so as despite the increase in rates, booking volume remains high as demand from the corporate travel sector continues to grow,” she said.

The STB says arrivals will not be affected.

It says the government is working to address the need for more rooms with the release of 14 sites for hotel developments since August 2006. These new hotels are expected to add another 4,800 rooms, the STB said.

The tourism sector accounts for about 3% of Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) but the figure could eventually rise to 10%, said Standard Chartered Bank economist Alvin Liew.

“I think Singapore rates pretty well as it has built up various attractions and types of tourism activity over the years,” Liew said.

Source : STAR
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