|By Jessica Lim, The Straits Times,
Singapore / Asian News NetworkMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 29, 2010 --SINGAPORE -- The number of tourists to Singapore last month shot up 18 per cent compared to August last year, due in part to the Youth Olympic Games.
The 996,000 arrivals set a record high for August, the ninth straight month of record monthly visitor arrivals.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB), in releasing its monthly figures, also attributed the growth to the pull of the two integrated resorts (IRs) and the continuing strength of the Asian economy.
However, the arrival numbers fall shy of the more than one million visitors logged for July -- the first and only time the one-million barrier was busted since 1967, when the authorities started keeping monthly arrival records.
Industry players are expecting the trend of monthly record highs to continue, but say the STB's targets -- to entice 11.5 million to 12.5 million visitors into spending between S$17.5 billion (US$13.2 billion) and S$18.5 billion here this year -- will be tough to meet.
Predictions had been that the target would be met or even exceeded, but now the tourism sector is heading into the relatively quieter months of October and November and no major events are on the calendar, noted National Association of Travel Agents Singapore chief executive Robert Khoo.
With four months to go, Singapore is short of the slightly more than 3.8 million visitors needed to reach 11.5 million.
"To hit it would mean attracting slightly more than 950,000 visitor arrivals each month for the next four months," said Mr Khoo.
The STB report noted that all of Singapore's top 15 visitor-generating markets, except Britain, sent more tourists this way last month.
Asked why the number of Britons coming here fell 7 per cent from August last year, Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturer in tourism Michael Chiam said the main reason was the weaker British pound.
The bright spots for the tourism trade were that the number of visitors from China, Thailand and Vietnam leapt by 51 per cent, 48 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively. China alone accounted for 131,000 arrivals.
The numbers are translating into handsome revenues for hotels and hospitality businesses. Hotels were, on average, 85 per cent occupied last month, up 7.6 percentage points from August last year. Overall, hotel room revenue added up to an estimated S$172 million, 37.1 per cent higher than in August last year.
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