Singapore sees record visitors in 2010

Singapore welcomed a record 11.6 million visitors last year, up 20 percent from 2009, thanks to the lure of its two new casinos and robust Asian economic growth, the tourism board said Thursday.

Visitors from Indonesia, China, Australia, Malaysia and India accounted for more than half last year's arrivals, the Singapore Tourism Board said in a statement.

Arrivals from other Southeast Asian neighbours like the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea also grew strongly.

The board and analysts said the buoyant figures were driven by "positive economic sentiment" in the region and the opening of two luxury casino resorts in 2010.

The huge growth was boosted after Malaysia's Genting Group in February 2010 opened its Resorts World Sentosa casino complex, featuring Southeast Asia's first Universal Studios movie theme park.

And less than three months later Las Vegas Sands threw open the doors to the Marina Bay Sands, which includes three hotel towers topped by a boat-like skypark.

The city-state's economy, with tourism a key economic earner, expanded 14.7 percent in 2010, the fastest growth in Asia as the region powers ahead after the global downturn.

CIMB regional economist Song Seng Wun told AFP the opening of the casinos "saw more Indonesians and other Southeast Asian travellers coming to town."

He added that the "economic landscape in Asia played a very large part" in the strong tourism arrivals not only in Singapore but also elsewhere in the region.

"People have good jobs, they have money in their pockets, plus flights from premium carriers and low-cost airlines are readily available," Song said.

He noted that the arrivals figures could be more if they included Malaysians coming to Singapore's casinos via the land border - the tourism board confirmed its figures did not include visitors arriving by land.

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