SINGAPORE – Singapore, which recorded a two per cent decline in tourism arrivals in 2008 over 2007, is aggressively courting international tourists to bolster its tourism revenue and arrest the declining trend.

Its Trade and Industry Minister, Lim Hng Kiang, said the world’s travel industry has been feeling the effects of the global economic downturn.

“While the Asia Pacific has not been immune to the impact of the global recession, the Asian Development Bank upgraded growth projections for Asia from six per cent to 6.4 per cent in 2010 and commented that the region will be ‘poised to lead the recovery’.

“With intra-regional travel accounting for more than 80 per cent of travel traffic in the Asia Pacific, the projected higher economic growth and potential increase in outbound travel in Asia bodes well for us,” he said at the opening of the ITB Asia 2009 Wednesday.

Lim said despite the two per cent drop in tourism arrivals, Singapore’s tourism industry was “well-positioned to seize the opportunities in the recovery”.

Last year, Singapore raked in a record S$15.2 billion (S$1=RM2.42) in tourism receipts.

“2008 was also a record year for Singapore’s business travel industry when we welcomed three million business travel and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) visitors, and registered nearly S$6 billion in tourism receipts.

“We have been ranked first for the ease of doing business in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2009 report for four consecutive years,” he said.

Singapore is also investing huge sums to bolster its tourism sector.

“Earlier this year, the Singapore Tourism Board launched the S$90 million BOOST — Building on Opportunities to Strengthen Tourism — initiative to promote awareness of Singapore as an attractive destination and stimulate visitor arrivals,” he said.

Lim said under the initiative, Singapore also kick-started two marketing campaigns — “2009 Reasons to enjoy Singapore” and “2009 Reasons to Meet in Singapore”.

He said the campaigns were successful as evident from the rise in the tourist arrivals: from January to August 2009, visitor arrivals totalled 6.2 million, putting Singapore well within the forecast of nine to 9.5 million visitors by the end of the year.

The ITB Asia, being held for the second year, has become Asia’s largest trade fair.

It is the Asian edition of the ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism show organised by Berlin’s trade fair company, Messe Berlin.