Singapore is a small island city-state with 263 square miles of land and 4.8 million residents, and it has one of the highest population densities in the world. Singapore has a modern economy of US$169 billion in 2008 with only slightly more than one percent growth due to the current global economic crisis but still has a high standard of living. Its small size means that there is virtually no domestic tourism. In addition, the country’s economic development has raised the standard of living, with an increasing number of middle- and upper-income groups. These factors promote a culture that enjoys overseas travel.
A larger percentage of Singaporeans are traveling overseas for business or leisure as a result of globalization and greater affluence. Singapore’s middle class increasingly desires to travel abroad as their spending power grows. Its multicultural society also promotes travel because it fosters a respect for different cultures. Moreover, many Singaporeans travel overseas to visit relatives in other countries, including the U.S. According to the World Tourism Organization, Singaporeans were among the top 25 nationalities in 2007 worldwide in terms of international tourism expenditure. This correlates with Government of Singapore (GOS) statistics that indicates Singaporeans who come from higher income households were more likely to travel.
More than three million Singapore residents aged 15 years and above made at least one trip overseas annually in the past two years according to recent statistics. In 2007, almost 135,000 Singaporeans visited the United States, an increase of 10 percent over the previous years, which ranks it among the 40 top markets for inbound tourists.
Over the past decade, Singapore has evolved into a mature market with limited potential for growth in the leisure sector. However, the construction of two Integrated Resorts (casino projects) worth a total of US$5 billion will change the face of Singapore’s domestic tourism sector when they open for business in early 2010 and 2011 respectively. This will result in Singapore becoming an attractive tourist destination. Moreover, the on-going proliferation of low-cost airlines will also increase competition opening more Asian destinations for travelers.
Despite its small size, Singapore was the 16th largest trading partner and 12th largest export market of the United States in 2008. American firms generally find that Singapore is a great place to do business, and they utilize the island city-state as their gateway to the region. There are slightly more than 1,500 U.S. firms (which is a quarter of all the MNCs) in Singapore, many of which have located their Asia Pacific headquarters here.
The Government of Singapore (GOS) reported that its citizens are traveling overseas more frequently. Higher disposable income and an increase in work-related travel have provided Singaporeans with a greater opportunity to travel. The primary reason for this trend is the strong and consistent domestic economic growth that Singapore has experienced during the last three years but there will be some reduction this year due to the economic crisis. In addition, Singapore maintains good air connections with Asian and European countries as well as direct air connections to the United States.
Singapore’s Immigration & Checkpoint Authority has started using the new biometric passport system from 2007 that relies on fingerprint technology. The system will help ensure that Singapore continues to participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which will enable Singaporeans to travel to the U.S. with convenience. Singaporeans will not need visas to enter the U.S. in most circumstances; however travelers on extended business, employment and education trips will require a visa. A new initiative that took effect from January 2009 is Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which is the new online system that is part of the Visa Waiver Program All nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure under the VWP will need to receive an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a U.S.- bound airplane or cruise ship.
Outbound travel from Singapore has grown steadily from 2000 when four million travelers departed from Singapore by sea, air or land. Since Singapore is a small island with very good air connections, air travel accounts for most of the departures. According to recent statistics, more than three million Singapore residents aged 15 years and above made at least one trip overseas annually in the past two years.
The average length of stay in the U.S. is at least two weeks and most Singaporeans generally visit one or two U.S. States during their trip. Most Singaporeans tend to visit either the west coast or the east coast and consequently, popular destinations include Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City in that order. Orlando and Las Vegas are also popular cities due to the mega tourist attractions in those cities. According to recent State Tourism information, the most popular States for domestic and international travelers in terms of spending based on 2007 figures are those found on the West and East coasts.
By CHAN Y K