According to this article I read on the Huffington Post today, Singapore is experiencing an unheard of surge in tourists. This past Wednesday, Changi Airport marked 40 million people served in the year so far, a first for the busy airport. The article largely credits the opening of the two casinos (Resort World Sentosa and Marina Bay) for the surge, which in turn is creating an economic stimulus in Singapore (part of a larger economic stimulus in Asia as a whole).
It is my belief (please correct me if I’m wrong) that the nearest big gambling destination is Macau, off the coast of Hong Kong? If true, it makes sense that Singapore would be a far cheaper/attractive alternative, especially for Malays, Indians, Indonesians and Thais. Although the second largest group listed as traveling to Singapore are Aussies, who have casinos in their homeland, so I’m not sure if the argument is a false correlation.
After 8 months in Singapore, I don’t spend a lot of time at tourist destinations (other than the zoo). But to be fair, I can see the appeal of Singapore as a tourist destination. It’s the only country in Southeast Asia where the tap water is safe and clean…which certainly raises it above the rest of the region from my Western perspective. It’s clean, and crime free. Unlike India and Thailand (the only countries in the region I’ve been to thus far), you aren’t bothered by people begging, hawking goods to you, or otherwise physically accosting you. The public transport system is efficient. There is high end shopping, for the elite of the surrounding countries. The casinos certainly don’t hurt (although, if you’re a local, be prepared to pay a 100SGD levy to enter them…expats, just bring your passport/employment/dependent pass and you’ll get in for free). Universal Studios is lame, but would appeal to families with kids older than mine. I certainly can’t deny the appeal of the world-class zoo and the one-of-a-kind Night Safari (and I eagerly await the opening of the River Safari and our pandas in 2012)!
If you want to be in with the cool kids (not me…I’ll just show you the funny bathrooms at the mall near my house), apparently the place to be is Singapore.