SINGAPORE saw an 11% increase in the number of UK visitors during the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.
The destination attracted 106,631 Britons from January to March, with March seeing the 13th month of consecutive growth. The Singapore Tourism Board said it is expecting to finish 1999 up 8%-10% on last year.
Operators say the rise in visitor numbers is not surprising as discounting by both airlines and hoteliers has made Singapore one of the world's cheapest cities to visit. Some hotel rates are up to a third lower than in 1997, while airlines are offering very competitive fares to both Singapore and other parts of southeast Asia.
Tradewinds contracts manager Franco Sessini said Malaysia Airlines' new service from Manchester to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur was also providing fresh interest for thedestination.
As one of the main gateways to southeast Asia, Singapore is also benefiting from the current increase in traffic to the region - especially passengers en route to Bali.
Magic of the Orient managing director Tony Champion said: "Singapore has always been a gateway to Asia and is benefiting from more stopover business."
Operators also credited the STB for raising awareness of the destination through its advertising, trade support and sponsorship of the annual Singapore Food Festival.
British Airways Holidays product manager Mandy Miller said:"The STB is doing a lot to promote Singapore and persuade people there is a lot to do there."
Although Singapore is still seen primarily as a stopover destination, operators say clients are spending longer on the island. Premier Holidays said the average stay of its clients has climbed slightly from 3.1 nights to 3.3.
STB UK regional director Aaron Hung added: "The growth in visitors is the result of what we have been trying to do over the last few years in bringing a new angle for Singapore."
The STB is planning to spend an extra £500,000 promoting Singapore in the UK this year, £300,000 of which will be allocated to advertising millennium packages.
The MillenniaMania deals are being put together in association with the STB and will be available for travel up to August next year. In addition, the STB has launched a freephone number to handle the 35,000 calls it receives each year from consumers. The number - 08080 656565 - replaces the previous 0171 number.
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