The Singapore government’s assumption that by legalizing casinos this will increase both tourism and business travel to the city seems a reasonable one. There are, though, some structural issues that could create a lack of correlation between the introduction of casinos and the growth of the local MICE market.


Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands are between them adding only around 4,300 hotel rooms to the market, yet are claiming they can increase Singapore’s daily MICE attendance capacity by 80,000.

According to Singapore Tourism Board statistics for 2009, the city had on average 26,523 tourist arrivals per day, served by a maximum of 32,709 gazetted hotel rooms at year’s end. That’s 1.2 hotel rooms per visitor per day. But only around 58 percent of tourists (15,383 per day) actually stay in gazetted hotels, according to the STB. Around 21 percent stay with friends and family. That changes the ratio to a much more favorable 2.1 rooms for every tourist arrival seeking hotel space. Were, however, an additional 80,000 daily MICE visitors and 4,300 new hotel rooms from the casinos to be added to the mix, that would produce a total of 106,523 visitors per day effectively competing for access to only 37,009 hotel rooms of international standard. That’s only 0.3 rooms per visitor.


Using April 2009 visitor arrivals as a snapshot, there’s evidence that currently many of the nationalities Asian casino operators think of as their target customers are not staying in Singapore hotels. Out of 778,817 tourist arrivals in April 2009, nearly half came from just four countries, according to STB data. They were: Indonesia (126,797), the People’s Republic of China (86,522), India (55,985) and Malaysia (51,262).


And there appears to be a correlation between proximity of those visitors to the market and length of stay. The nearer they live the more likely they are to be part-day or one-day visitors. Of the Indonesian visitors, 30.6 percent stayed for fewer than 24 hours. Of Malaysians, 44.6 percent were in town for fewer than 24 hours. With Chinese visitors, 32.7 percent were in town less than one day. Among arrivals from India, 16.1 percent visited for less than one day.

Reprinted with permission from Inside Asian Gaming.