#Business #travel decline hits #Singapore tourism Tourism revenues down nearly 7% despite upturn in arrivals

A decline in business travel and MICE activity led to a significant drop in Singapore’s tourism revenues last year.

According to the full-year data from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the country generated tourism receipts of SG$22.0 billion (US$15.6bn) in 2015, down 6.8% year-on-year. Visitor arrivals actually increased 0.9% to 15.2 million, but the arrivals from the high-spending business travel and MICE (BTMICE) sectors fell 6%, leading to the drop in revenues.

“We are encouraged by the upturn in visitor arrivals from May onwards that led to a positive growth for the whole of 2015. Of particular note is the 2% growth in leisure visitor arrivals in 2015, which helped offset the decline in BTMICE visitor arrivals. This shows that Singapore remains attractive as a leisure destination,” said STB chief executive, Lionel Yeo.

Singapore's central business district (photo by joyfull)
Singapore’s central business district (photo by joyfull)

“As the average BTMICE visitor spends about two times more than the average leisure visitor, the fall in BTMICE visitor arrivals and spending due to companies cutting back on both travel and trip budgets has had a significant impact on our tourism receipts,” he added.

In terms of visitor arrivals, the STB’s efforts in attracting more Chinese visitors appear to be paying off, with a 22% jump in Chinese arrivals last year. Arrivals from India (+7%), South Korea (+7%) and Taiwan (+12%) also showed strong growth, but visitation from neighbouring Indonesia (-10%) and Malaysia (-5%) declined.

In terms of visitor spending, receipts from Japan (+6%) increased, but these gains were again offset by falling expenditure from Indonesia (-21%) and Malaysia (-26%).

“These markets had faced economic challenges and seen their currencies depreciated against the Singapore dollar. Consequently, there were fewer visitor arrivals and less spending from these markets,” the STB noted.

Looking ahead to 2016, STB forecast another year of slow growth, with visitor arrivals expected to rise 0-3% to between 15.2m and 15.7m, and tourism receipts to grow 0-2% to between SG$22.0bn and $22.4bn.

“Global economic growth may be hampered by the slower growth momentum of the Chinese and US economies as well as uncertainties such as ongoing reforms in China and the impact of the normalisation of the US monetary conditions. Increasing regional competition will also pose challenges to Singapore’s tourism sector,” STB warned.

It added however, that the country’s business events pipeline “continues to be strong” and that it will “continue to intensify its marketing efforts by expanding into more secondary cities in Singapore’s top source markets”.

#Seoul and #Singapore ink Memorandum of Cooperation

Agreement to drive two-way tourism traffic

Seoul and Singapore ink Memorandum of Cooperation

The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) have today entered into a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) that will drive tourism traffic between the two destinations.

The signatories to the MOC were Mr Kim Eui Seung, director-general, tourism & sports bureau of Seoul Metropolitan Government and Ms Lynette Pang, assistant chief executive, marketing, Singapore Tourism Board. The ceremony was witnessed by Mayor Park Won-Soon, Seoul Metropolitan Government and Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry.

This is the first MOC between both organisations and sets out the general framework of cooperation in three main areas:

• Tourism Exchanges: Share best practices on tourism-related knowledge and experiences to enhance the quality of tourism products and services.

• Marketing and Promotion: Facilitate marketing and promotional activities undertaken by each party in the other country to drive awareness of tourism products and services

• Regional Integration: Encourage the participation of business communities and other tourism enterprises in travel marts, exhibition and tourism festival to boost visitors’ growth.

Lynette Pang, assistant chief executive, marketing, Singapore Tourism Board, said: “The MOC between SMG and STB will help unlock new opportunities for both destinations through tourism exchanges and cross-marketing efforts.

“Last year, Singapore received about 580,000 South Koreans, a 7.5% increase over 2014. We look forward to welcoming more visitors from South Korea, an important source market, with this collaboration.

Kim Eui Seung, director-general, Tourism & Sports Bureau of Seoul Metropolitan Government, added: “I am very pleased that SMG and STB signed the MOC and positive that this will strengthen ties between the two cities with the increase in tourism traffic, as well as exchanges in business and culture.”

Qandeel Baloch case: Brother held for celebrity’s murder

The brother of Pakistani social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, has been arrested for her murder.

Waseem Baloch, 25, was arrested in Dera Ghazi Khan in central Pakistan on Saturday night.

The Dawn newspaper said he had confessed to the murder, saying he drugged and strangled her “for dishonouring the Baloch name”.

Qandeel Baloch, 26, became a household name for posting sometimes raunchy photographs, comments and videos.

She recently caused controversy by posting pictures of herself alongside a Muslim cleric.

Media captionQandeel Baloch had a reputation for being Pakistan’s first social media celebrity

Dawn quoted police as saying her “selfies” with Mufti Qavi were one of the issues cited by her brother.

The paper quoted Waseem Baloch as saying: “She wasn’t aware I was killing her. I gave her a tablet and then strangled her.”

Police said the brother had fled to Dera Ghazi Khan after the killing in the Karimabad area of Multan early on Saturday morning.

They said he fled with two friends who were still being sought.

Ms Baloch in pictures alongside a Muslim cleric that appeared on social media
Image captionMs Baloch appeared alongside a Muslim cleric in images uploaded on to social media
Qandeel Baloch, Facebook pageImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMs Baloch has been bitterly critical of Pakistan’s patriarchal society

Ms Baloch rose to fame in Pakistan in 2014 when a video of her pouting at the camera and asking “How em looking?” went viral.

In a recent interview she was bitterly critical of Pakistan’s patriarchal society and described herself as a leading exponent of girl power.

While many younger people saw her as a cultural icon and hailed her liberal views, she was also subjected to frequent misogynist abuse online.

Her request for better security was ignored by the government, Dawn reported, despite pleas made three weeks ago to the interior minister and other senior officials.

Hundreds of women are murdered every year in Pakistan in so-called honour killing cases.

#Lowcost #Holidays demise blamed on Brexit vote

Beach at BarcelonaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Holiday booking company Lowcost Travelgroup has gone into administration, as uncertainty ahead of the EU referendum and the fall in the pound were blamed for its demise.

The group has 27,000 holiday makers in resorts and 110,000 more with bookings.

Administrators said Lowcost Travelgroup ceased trading on 15 July, with the loss of 120 jobs in the UK.

Smith & Williamson and CMB Partners were appointed administrators after the firm’s own rescue attempts failed.

Those “exhaustive” attempts had been “hampered by the recent and ongoing turbulent financial environment”.

Customers’ flight bookings will be valid in almost all cases, but hotels will need to be paid for, a company spokesperson said.

‘Delayed decisions’

Smith & Williamson said intense competition had caused the collapse but also the increased terror threat and the uncertainty before and after the recent referendum.

“The group experienced significant market headwinds in the run up to the EU referendum as holidaymakers delayed decisions. This was compounded by the Leave vote itself and the subsequent fall in value of the pound,” said Finbarr O’Connell of Smith & Williamson.

“Regrettably, in these extraordinary conditions, the directors had no option but to place Lowcost Travelgroup Limited into administration. ”

The group operated a travel agency business from headquarters in the UK and offices in Spain, Switzerland and Poland.

The administrators said 60% of customers were British.

Analysis: Joe Lynam, BBC Business Correspondent

The mass holidays business and especially selling hotel beds all over the world is a tough one. The margins are negligible. Often – as appears to be the case with Lowcost Holidays – the cash earned for future holidays was used to pay for people that were already away.

So if there’s a relatively sudden dip in confidence leading up to the Brexit referendum and then the pound plunges against the euro after the vote, that can be enough to tip the financial house of cards that some holiday companies have erected.

Tighter EU rules mean that airlines have responsibility for their customers and must get them home. Also many credit card providers include free travel insurance cover.

But the longed for trip away will not now be happening for thousands of Lowcost Holidays customers.

The group mainly sold hotel accommodation through its wholesale (Lowcostbeds) and retail (Lowcostholidays) businesses.

Fly home

It also sold holidays to consumers in Europe and Scandinavia using technology that enabled customers to choose from a variety of flights and hotels for their chosen destination.

The failure will affect many customers who have purchased flights or holidays, some of whom are on holiday in resorts and some of whom have not travelled yet.

A statement said that all flights involving people currently in resorts have been paid for and hence customers will be able to fly home when their holidays are over.

It added that, “unfortunately, as regards customers who have not travelled as yet a small number will have problems as regards their flights not having been paid for and many will have problems as regards their hotel rooms not having been paid for”.

British customers

A spokesperson for the UK regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: “We understand the Spanish travel company Lowcost Holidays has ceased trading. The company was based in Mallorca and was registered with the Balearic Islands authorities.

“The company was therefore not part of the UK’s Atol scheme and the Balearic Islands authorities are responsible for the holiday protection arrangements for the company’s customers.

“We believe the company may have had a large number of British customers and many of these are likely to be overseas.

“Our understanding is these customers should have valid flight tickets to use to return home to the UK. We advise customers to check the status of their bookings with their airline and accommodation provider.”

Lowcost Travelgroup employed 120 staff in Crawley, West Sussex who have been made redundant.

Most of the company’s 451 staff were based in Poland.

Turkey #coup attempt: #US warns #Turkey against ‘insinuations’ of involvement

  • 44 minutes ago
  • From the sectionEurope
A woman takes a selfie in front a damaged Turkish military APC in Ankara on 16 July, 2016Image copyrightAP

The US has warned Turkey against “public insinuations” of American involvement in a failed military coup, saying such claims are “utterly false and harmful” to their relations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was speaking after Turkey’s labour minister suggested the US was behind the coup.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the US to extradite US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Mr Erdogan has accused him of being behind the plot, which Mr Gulen denies.

Mr Gulen told reporters from his home in Pennsylvania that he had been away from Turkey for more than 15 years and “I don’t even know who my followers [in the country] are”.

The attempted coup began on Friday night when a faction of the military took over key bridges in Istanbul and attacked parliament buildings in Ankara.

The government says 161 civilians and 104 “plotters” were killed in ensuing clashes, and more than 1,440 injured.

Nearly 3,000 soldiers have been detained and some 2,700 judges were sacked on Saturday as the government sought to re-assert its power.

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