Tourism plays an important role in the economy of a country including foreign exchange earning, source of employment, cultural preservation, providing an avenue for development of a country’s infrastructure among others. Countries which have faced challenges in the field of agriculture and other areas can capitalize on tourism as a source of alternative income. Tourism has largely been applied all over the world as an alternative source of income generation. Regardless of the aforementioned benefit, Jeffreys & Munn, (1997; cited in Blackman, et al., 2004), Murphy & Murphy (2002; cited in Blackman, et al., 2004) view that the realities of tourism are not always clearly understood. Blackman et al. have brought the idea of peripheral and core areas while analyzing tourism in the peripheral areas. The authors have posited that peripheral nature of a country may emanate from its political, economic or societal problems or challenges as well as geographical periphery.
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The tourists’ expenditure from tourism activities including local transportation, sight-seeing, entertainment, accommodation as well as shopping, play a key role in generating revenue for any country. In addition, many countries have focused on developing tourism as a major source of generating foreign exchange. Therefore, there has arisen among various countries in attracting this revenue from tourist attractions. While looking at tourism, two aspects of it are important, namely domestic and international tourism. Domestic tourism is tourism activities among the citizens of the same country while international tourism refers to tourism activities by visitors from other countries. Domestic tourism can play a major role in the tourism sector of a country, for example when there are travel restrictions for citizens from certain countries in cases where a country is termed as a security threat. Tourism has received a major threat since the September 2001 attacks on the United States soil. This has raised more interest into the issue of secure travels as well as security in the places of travel. In general, peace and harmony of a country plays an important role in tourism industry of that country.
The peace and harmony may be judged either in terms of domestic war and struggles as well as international problems and political inclination of the government in the country. There has been a move by the United States to influence countries to join it in joint war against terrorism which has taken a centre stage in tourism in the recent past. A country may be favored in terms of economic, cultural and geographical factors to attract more tourists than another. Countries may attract tourists because of many reasons, which may be grouped into two majors; natural or man-made factors. Natural factors are those that occur naturally such as the geographical location of a country and the climate, suitability for wildlife and other things. Man-made factors are those that can be made by man designed purposely to attract tourists.
The tourism industry of a country is related to the hotel industry because the latter plays an important role in containing visitors within the country. Bookings are also made sometimes at the same time.
Tourism in Singapore and Analysis
Singapore is a country located in the South-East Asia and attracts tourists as a result of many favorable factors. It was projected in 2006 that the number of tourist visitors to Singapore would continue to improve as the trend in the past years. Tourism plays a significant role in the economy of Singapore. Singapore had projected to reach a target of 9.4 million visitors into the country in the year 2006 and attained a level of 4.7 million visitors from January to July the same year. Singapore has become a centre of tourism, communication as well as trade partly because of its geographical location-between Indian Ocean and South China Sea. This location can be termed as strategic and helps in attracting tourists from around the world. The most popular tourist attractions in Singapore are Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and Sentosa.
The country enjoys tourist or visitors from the Asian region as well as away. In 2005, the country received 1.8 million visitors from Indonesia as the main source of visitors coming into Singapore, followed by China with 0.86 million visitors. The country registered a growth of 7.2% in the number of visitors received over the month of August in 2005 as compared to a number of 870,000 visitors received in August 2006 (Fact Sheet, 2006). The location of Singapore as bounded by some of the world major sea-lanes such as Singapore Strait at the south and Johor Straits at the north making it to enjoy a climate with tropical rain forest with uniform high temperature throughout the year. This may attract people from those areas with too cold climates or winter seasons as they may come into Singapore to enjoy the comfortable climate. In the year 2008, Singapore recorded an increase in the length of days of stay for visitors of 9.1% as compared to the average length of stay in the year 2007. Although there was a 1.6% decline in the number of visitor arrivals (10.1 million in 2008), there was a 7.4$ increase in the tourism receipts (S$15.2 billion) as compared to the receipts in 2007.
Cultural factors have also played an important role in ensuring that the tourism industry is sustained or improved in Singapore. Singapore enjoys being a multicultural country in contrast to Malaysia, because there are three main races, namely Indian (8.69% of the population), Malay (13.6% of the population), and Chinese (75.5% of the population). The cultural diversity reflects the history of Singapore since colonial times. Cultural diversity in a country is very essential because different cultures have a different taste including different foods, clothing, language and festivals. Differences in food tastes for example have made it possible for the local cuisine to avail different foods with different prices for all budget categories. In addition to this variety of food tastes, the government arranges for celebration of multicultural cuisine in Singapore annually in the Singapore Food Festival held in July every year. This festival has helped attract tourists in the country. In addition, organizing a project to light up the cities in Singapore during festivals like the Chinese New Year and Christmas, has played a role in attracting tourists in the country. Cultural flavors represent the taste of a certain country.
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Singapore had unique market policies which were different from the surrounding the time when it was under British occupation while the rest of neighborhood was under Dutch control. Various segmentations to enhance the country’s economic growth since 1970, including technological upgrades, town planning, public housing and economic zones were put in place. The country’s road to modernization was also enhanced by various things including successful demographic transition, cleanliness, traffic management and effective environmental management (Haley & Low, 1998; Dutta, 2008). Culture would, according to Zukin (1995) provide to a country a unique competitive edge in tourism, a basis for a city’s tourist attraction and a business hub for cities. Singapore has scored a major goal in attracting immigrants from other countries which has contributed to the culture enrichment of Singapore. Many people lost their lifestyles through modernization by the western culture. This affected individuals and then their families. Modernization trend in Singapore nearly encourages traditional nuclear families. As compared to western teenagers who are more rebellious, closer family ties play an important role in ensuring that Asian teenagers are lesser rebellious. Although multicultural diversity has helped Singapore to boost its tourism business, the business has of recent past received challenges from the multicultural society itself because of change of societal and ethnic Asian cultural values in recent years. The change is as a result of Singapore becoming a destination of tourism among the Asian countries. Before the decline in the number of tourists in 1983, Singapore had a set of policies that sought to promote the country as a multicultural character of the city. The Singapore Tourism Board used the slogan “Instant Asia” to promote the country by emphasizing the multi-cultural character of the city. These policies were changed after the aforementioned decline in the number of tourists. The new policies focused on investing in improvement of old attractions and restructuring the country with modern infrastructure. Through the urban renewal policies, the government has helped in building ethnic neighborhoods and preservation of historic places. According to Lew (1992; cited in Dutta, 2008), Singaporeans believe that redevelopment has led to the loss of much of the old charm of the neighborhoods. Two trends have led to increase of multi-cultural status of Singapore, namely inter-racial marriages and incoming foreigners who take up Singapore citizenship.
Singapore has faced competition in the aspect of tourism from the nearing countries including Malaysia which had surpassed Singapore to become a leading destination in Southeast Asia. Other countries that would give Singapore competition in tourist activities are Indonesia and Thailand. With rising competition, Singapore had planned in 2008 to promote tourism by making it a tourism business center, a memorable destination and a Tourism Capital of the region. Factors that have made the country perform well as a location for tourism activities include strong financial services, its good location, and the excellent supporting infrastructure. The government has also invested or planned investment in tourism through existing tourism development programs including the Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2008 (STB, 2008), National Art Gallery to be launched in 2012 (will add refinement culture and history of Singapore’s attractions), Sports Hub, developed gardens by the bay, the great Singapore Flyer, and through the two integrated resorts-the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World at Sentosa island.
The position of Singapore as a developed country has also played an important role in attracting tourists. This is because the country has invested in important structures that promote or are related to tourism. The infrastructure includes the Changi Airport which was rated as the best airport during 2006 by skytrax. In 2005, the airport connected Singapore to 57 countries and 179 cities through a network of 81 airlines, according to Airport of the Year result (2006). In addition to the network is the low cost and budget airline which makes it possible for the people to afford flights. Singapore has also invested in a convenient road network which has assisted transport. In addition, there are transport means provided to travel around the country – Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), buses and cabs. A good transport system may encourage people to travel to many places around a country for example. The economic and planning ability of a country may play an important role in developing or boosting tourist activities within a country. In 2006, the government was developing about 10 tourist destinations at Maringa Bay. Construction of an aquarium reported in October 17, 2006 would also play a role in boosting tourism in Singapore. This aquarium would contain robotic aquatic creatures and a mixture of live marine animals which would be visible from underground viewing tunnel. This would be part of the country’s bid to build Singapore’s second casino resort. This was targeted as reported to be the world’s largest aquarium.
The increase in the number of tourist arrivals in the September/October 2008 could point to the importance of man-made activities in the tourism sector. This is because the reason availed for the increment in the 2008 annual report by the Singapore Tourism Board is due to the 2008 FORMULA 1TM SingleTel Singapore Grand Prix and the pre-Hari Raya traffic from neighboring countries. The country received visitors also from Europe (an increase of 4.5%), Oceania (an increase of 6.6%), South Asia (an increase of 5.6%) and West Asia (an increase of 15.5%). The country’s largest source of visitors in the year 2008 was Southeast Asia, with a percentage of 35 and the least was Africa recording a percentage 1%. The country also received a percentage of 3 of the visitors in the same period, from the United States. Statistics available from the 2008 Annual report by the Singapore Tourism Board indicate that the country has experienced an increase in the number of visitor arrivals every year since 2004 but the figure for 2008 fell than that of 2008. During the year 2004, the country recorded 8.3 million, 8.9 million in 2005, 9.8 million in 2006, 10.3 million in 2007 and 10.1 million visitors in 2008.
There was an increase of 13.1% in the hotel room revenue (S$2.1 billion) for the year 2008 as compared to that of 2007. The average hotel room recorded an increase of 21.7% to reach S$245. However, the said economic downturn may have had impacts to the tourism industry as noted in the annual report on tourism statistics by the Singapore Tourism Board in that there was a decline in the visitor arrival from the month of June 2008. This is in contrast with the growth of the visitor arrival of 4.6% during Jan-May 2008. Malaysia, India and Australia were the only ones who reported a positive growth among the top ten markets for the Singapore’s tourism industry. Malaysia reported a positive growth of 0.3%, India 4.0% and Australia a growth of 8.4%. Also, there was positive growth registered among the emerging markets like Vietnam (17.8%), Russian Federation (28.5%) and UAE (24.6%) for the year 2007 as compared to 2007.
Tourists or visitors have different reasons why they visit countries. Some may travel for business interests, others for leisure or holidays while others will do so to visit their families and friends. According to the data presented for Singapore in the 2008 Annual report by the Singapore Tourist Board, there was an improvement in the number of people who traveled to Singapore for holiday reasons from the year 2005 until 2007 before a decline in 2008. In 2005, the percentage of those people traveling for holiday was 30%, in 2006 they formed 37%, in 2007 40%, but the figure dropped to 39% in 2008. According to the data for the number of those traveling for business or MICE for the same period, there was improvement up until 2008. In 2005, the percentage was 27, then 28, 29 and 30 during 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively. For those people traveling into Singapore to visit friends and relatives, the percentage recorded were 15%, 13, 10 and 12% for the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively. Those traveling for other reasons recorded 28%, 22%, 21% and 19% for the same period from 2005 to 2008. This data reveal that the number of those people traveling for holiday purposes was highest throughout, followed by those traveling for business/MICE. This means that the country could have gained more from holiday travels though business travels are also significant. The percentage of those visiting for holidays went up by 9% (39% in 2008 from 30% in 2007). It has been shown in the 2008 annual report by the Singapore Tourism Board that majority (always more than a half) of the visitors from 2005 to 2008 traveled with companions. The percentages of those traveling with companions were 58%, 58%, 56% and 53% in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively. In addition, data reveals the type of companion accompanying the visitors. During the year 2005, those accompanying children above 19 years were 13%, 5% in 2006, 3% in 2007 and 3% in 2008. In addition, those traveling with their partners/boyfriend/girlfriend were 6%, 4%, 3% and 4% for 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively. Those people traveling with their spouses formed the greatest percentage for all the years.
Because the number traveling for purposes is more than others, the country may gain more income from these tourists in the future or present and therefore the government need to continue improving in investing in the resources promoting tourism in this respect. This includes improvement of the existing as well as building of new facilities such as resorts, hotels and accommodation facilities. However, business activities also attract a good number of visitors and therefore the government must continue ensuring that the business environment is improved to woo more people to come in and do business. Investment in all aspects of tourism and improving in areas where boost in the number of tourism will be realized is certainly the solution. However, diversity is also important as you cannot woo all people to travel for one reason.
The type of accommodation sought by those who traveled into the country also varied maybe according to the needs. The percentage of those choosing hotels remained between 58%-61% from 2005 to 2008. It was 59%, 61%, 61% and 58% in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively. This indicate that the number of those who had hotels as their accommodation were more than a half of the visitors from 2005. Those choosing residence of friends and relatives were 18%, 18%, 20% and 21% in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively while those choosing other types of accommodation were 16%, 14%, 10% and 15% in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 respectively. Those who did not state the accommodation type remained low between 6% and 8% for the period 2005-2008.
The importance of information exchange and advertisement of the country’s tourism sector among potential customer is very important as it can influence them. Moreover, the importance of the method of transaction with the tourist cannot be underscored in the recent competitive market. The customer wants simpler means of acquiring services with minimal disturbance, ease of use, lesser time for transaction, cheaper and convenient means. It is in this respect that customers are getting into using technology to book for holidays, travels, and even accommodation as compared to traditional means of travel agents. The interactive component between the customer and the offering company through technology like the internet has seen reduction of time, increased convenience, reduction of procedures of transaction because it has eliminated the travel agents as middle men in the business. The 2008 Singapore Tourism Board report has given information which indicates the impact of the various information channels on the influence of tourists. The number of visitors who has obtained information on Singapore prior to their coming into the country was 26% in 2008. Internet websites appear to have performed best in letting out information to travelers into Singapore because those who received the information via websites was 53% in 2008 up from 34% in the previous year. From speculation, some of the factors that could have led to such an increase include the rise of the number of those having access to the website, and increase of spreading of the information by the agency (agencies) concerned following threat of competition. However, the number was higher than 2006 (46%) as compared to 2007 (34%) while in 2005 it was 42%. There is also a possibility that the internet was preferred because it eliminated some difficulties presented by the conventional means such as need for physical contacts with agents, need for traveling to seek information, and because of the ease of acquiring the information from the internet. The growth of the internet information spreading has posed a danger to other conventional means of winning and serving customers. It has for example encouraged payment of tickets and booking of travels as well as booking for check-ins and holidays on the internet which can be done at home.
Travel agent/tour operator method has been declining in terms of popularity and as indicated in the report, it has been performing poorly since 2006. The percentage of those who acquired information about Singapore declined from 2006 (38%), 2007 (36%) and 2008 (21%). However, the report notes that this type of information spreading was the most common source of information on Singapore. A substantial percentage of people acquired information about Singapore because of the friends and relatives who had visited the country before. Other types of sources of information spread to the people included travel guide books and friends/relatives living in Singapore.
With the internet becoming a common means to deliver and sell hotel information across the market following the use of information sources by guests wanting to evaluate alternatives and the need for hotel practitioners to look for effective channels to communicate with their markets and guests (Armijos et al., 2002; Gregory & Breiter, 2001; cited in Mohamed, 2006 : 47), Singapore may gain more from the usage of internet through the many customers who acquire information about the country’s resources.
The importance of diversity in the tourism attraction sites should always be emphasized. This is in consideration that various people have different interests and even attachments to places and features. More diversity will ensure that more people get to visit the country for different type of fun. More diversity may also be used in tourism to boost a country’s competitive position against the rest in the region. However, such a competitive edge can be achieved by making sure that the country invests in those attractive sites which are not farmiliar in the region or peculiar in nature.
The Singapore Tourism Board has given data in their 2008 report concerning what attractions were visited. The most visited place among the Paid-Access places was Sentosa with 31%, 38%, 32% and 30% percentages of people visiting Singapore in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively. However, there was a drop in the share percentage of the people visiting the place as can be seen in the aforementioned data. Night Safari was the second most visited but did not end with as many people as Sentosa. Other places included Jurong BirdPark, Singapore Cable Car and Singapore Zoo. Among the Free-Access attractions, the most visited was Orchard Road with 73%, 73%, and 69% of visitors in the years 2005, 2006, and 2007 respectively. Other places visited were Chinatown and Little India. All the data excluded 2008 Formula 1TM visitor profile.
Satisfaction of customers in any business is very important because it may make the customer come back at the same place. Even in the tourism industry, the investors must ensure that customers expectations are met by the services provided. Satisfaction can be gauged from different types of services offered in the whole travel package components including airport facilities and services, immigration clearance, travel agent services, shopping, hotel facilities, and public transport among others. There was recorded increase in the number of those customers who were satisfied with their visit to Singapore from 71% in 2007 to 75% in 2008. However, the overall satisfaction in the year 2008 remained at 5.9.
Tourism plays a major role in a country’s economy through provision of employment, generation of foreign exchange and other benefits as well. Countries whose agricultural field is performing poorly can boost their economies through diversification by increasing interest or focusing on developing tourism more. It has been found out that in most countries the realities of tourism are not always clearly understood (Jeffreys & Munn, (1997; Murphy & Murphy (2002); cited in Blackman, et al, 2004).
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There are various factors that contribute to the excellence of a country in tourism. A country’s political, economical and social environment as well as geographical location is important in the country’s performance in tourism. Two aspects of tourism, namely domestic and international tourism have been mentioned in this paper. Development of both forms of tourism is important to ensure stability of tourism for example during times of ban in travels for certain reasons such as terrorism.
Singapore’s strategic location as well as its economic power and cultural diversity have helped in its performance in tourism. The country has a good performance as a tourist destination in South East Asia. The country’s economic power as a developed country has made investment in development of infrastructure as well as development of tourist attraction sites possible. The cultural diversity has offered diversity in terms of, for example, the food that is served in local areas. The country’s location places it at a better place to receive visitors who are willing to come and enjoy a climate with tropical rainforest with uniform temperatures throughout the year. Citizens from cold climates or those areas being faced by winter seasons may come to enjoy the more favorable climate in Singapore. Singapore has enjoyed tourist visitors both from the Asian region as well as from other regions such as America. In the year 2008, Singapore recorded an increase in the length of days of stay for visitors of 9.1% as compared to the average length of stay in the year 2007. Although there was a 1.6% decline in the number of visitor arrivals (10.1 million in 2008), there was a 7.4$ increase in the tourism receipts (S$15.2 billion) as compared to the receipts in 2007.
Singapore has enjoyed tourists coming in for various reasons, but mostly they came for holidays in the year 2008. In the year 2008, 39% of the tourists visited the country for holiday purposes, a drop from 40% the previous year. However, this value was higher than those who came for business reasons in 2008 (30%) and those who visited for other reasons. This means that the country has possibility of earning more from tourists visiting for purposes of holidays than for other reasons and therefore may need to invest more in the facilities promoting tourism in this respect. However, business is the reason why a large number also come to Singapore and it is necessary for the government to allow the development of the business climate to woo more people traveling to do business in the country.
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