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Singapore tourism income to drop 19%

SINGAPORE expects tourism revenue to plunge as much as 19 percent this year as a global economic slowdown undermines spending on travel.

Tourist income will likely fall to between S$12 billion (US$8 billion) and S$12.5 billion this year from S$14.8 billion last year, the Singapore Tourism Board said yesterday. The board expects tourist arrivals to drop to between 9 million and 9.5 million in 2009 from 10.1 million in 2008.

The government plans to spend S$90 million this year on marketing, training and lower fees for travel agents in a bid to attract visitors, more than the S$30 million spent on advertising in 2003, when an outbreak of the SARS virus slowed tourist arrivals to 6.1 million.

"The year ahead will be difficult and challenging," said Aw Kah Peng, the board's chief executive. "But it's not a complete closure as in SARS. People are still traveling."

Bank on casino

Singapore is counting on the tourism sector highlighted by the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino resort to create 12,000 new jobs this year. The resort, which is being built by casino operator Las Vegas Sands, was expected to open in the fourth quarter, but Aw declined to confirm the project was still on schedule.

"We're still working with them," Aw said. "Even as the fourth quarter gets nearer, I think it's premature to say how it will happen." Arrivals fell 1.6 percent in 2008, and while tourist revenue rose to a record last year, it fell short of the government's goal of S$15.5 billion.


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