The Supertrees vertical gardens and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel reflected in a pond at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. The Singapore Tourism Board is targeting more tourists from the arabian Gulf. Wallace Woon / EPA
The Supertrees vertical gardens and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel reflected in a pond at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. The Singapore Tourism Board is targeting more tourists from the arabian Gulf.

Singapore sees Arabian Gulf carriers as key to boost tourism

The Singapore tourism authority expects to work with Arabian Gulf carriers this year to promote the destination as it targets a modest rise in tourist numbers from the region.

Last year, it received 80,212 tourists from the UAE, a 2 per cent rise over the previous year.

This year, it is targeting a 1 to 4 per cent rise in the number of tourists from the UAE, according to Mohamed Firhan Abdul Salam, the area director for the Middle East and Africa for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

“We are cautiously optimistic this year because of the low oil prices that has affected corporate travel,” he said. “But the [Arabian Gulf] region has excellent connectivity with Singapore.”

There are 49 direct flights a week between this country and the South East Asian island, with 17,248 seats on Emirates Airline, Singapore Airlines and Etihad. Last year, the STB partnered with Etihad to promote the destination. The UAE is its strongest source market in the region, Mr Salam said.

Singapore received 16.4 million visitors last year, up 7.7 per cent over 2015. This year, it expects a flat-to-modest growth of up to 16.7 million visitors.

Singapore, home to several theme parks, also expects to field competition from Dubai’s rising profile as a theme park destination. DXB Entertainments said this month it would tap into Saudi Arabia, India and the United Kingdom markets to attract tourists this year.

China, Indonesia and India were Singapore’s top three source markets last year.

“There could be an impact to the theme park visitation but Singapore remains a family friendly destination and we are constantly reinventing our offerings,” Mr Salam said.

Last June, Mandai Safari Park Holdings announced the rebranding of its Singapore nature precinct, which would add a new Bird Park and a new multi-level Rainforest Park to the existing attractions of Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari in Mandai. It will take about three years to complete, Mr Salam said.

India is a large tourism market and both Dubai and Singapore are likely to benefit from it, according to Filippo Sona, the head of hotels for the Middle East and North Africa region at Colliers International.

While Singapore gets a lot more South East Asian tourists than Dubai, the emirate receives a higher number of visitors from Europe, he said.

“Dubai, however, has more diversified offerings such as beaches and deserts,” Mr Sona said. “That said, Dubai Parks and Resorts have not been aggressive enough in marketing its theme parks in the region and it should not wait to do so.”

Singapore has fewer hotel rooms at 63,618 compared with Dubai’s 88,837 at the end of January, according to the research company STR. It has a pipeline of 4,803 rooms from 17 properties compared with Dubai’s 42,761 rooms from 146 hotels, STR said.

Mr Salam said: “So far we have managed with the room stock and this year there will be more mid-range to high-end openings.”

This year, among the new hotel openings in Singapore are Andaz Singapore, Hotel InterContinental Robertson Quay, Courtyard by Marriott and Yotel.

Dubai’s large number of hotel rooms and their steady supply have put a downward pressure on the room rates for the past couple of years. Last year, Dubai’s average room rate fell by 9.9 per cent to Dh894.27 compared with 2015. Singapore’s average room rate fell by 4.3 per cent to 280.64 Singapore dollars (Dh727.14) compared with 2015, according to STR.

Follow The National's Business section on Twitter

Most Read
Top Videos

Checking In

Travel updates and inspiration from the past week

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      Checking In