Better Days Ahead for Singapore

Experts say Chinese visitation to Singapore will begin to recover early next year, and that’s good news for Marina Bay Sands and Resorts Sentosa, both mired this year in a slump in VIP play that is dragging down revenue and earnings.

Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa should see some relief from a VIP slump dragging down the Singapore market as Chinese visitor numbers stabilize in the months ahead.

Data from the Singapore Tourism Board released in mid-October show that in the quarter ended June 30 the number of mainland Chinese tourists dropped 47 percent year on year and nearly 44 percent sequentially, attributable mainly to a slowing of the Chinese economy, tighter credit conditions and the Chinese government’s aggressive crackdown on corruption.

Total international arrivals were down 6 percent over the quarter.

But the board expects the Chinese New Year holiday in February to restore some lift to mainland visitation, and Fitch Ratings says this year’s contraction in revenue from the VIP segment may be short-lived and expects the sector’s performance to improve in the latter part of 2015.

In the meantime, the debt ratings agency says the immediate credit outlook for MBS and RWS both remains resilient as they are seen as “mature gaming properties” and can withstand narrower earnings over the next 12 to 18 months.

A recent report from the World Travel and Tourism Council and the World Tourism Organization, an agency of the United Nations, suggested that easing visa restrictions for tourists from key markets including China, India and Russia could help Singapore attract 358,000 to 504,000 more visitors by 2016.

The STB, however, issued a statement challenging some of the assertions in that report, and stressing that the city-state focused not on raw numbers but on yield per visitor. The board’s own report on inbound tourism for the second quarter, published last month, showed that the number of Chinese visitors that stayed for at least two days during the period jumped by 21 percent year on year and for the first time outnumbered those who spent one day or fewer than 24 hours in the city.