Straits Times: Changi sees drop in transfers, more visitors to S'pore

EFFORTS to sell Singapore as a tourism destination appear to have paid off.

Five years ago, travellers who used Changi Airport to transfer flights made up about a third of total traffic.

Today, they account for 24 per cent, said Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of State for Transport, in a media interview on Monday.

Explaining the shift, a ministry spokesman told The Straits Times that the decline in the proportion of transfer passengers is due to the growth of direct flights in the region and new tourism developments in Singapore.

The boom in regional traffic has been fuelled mainly by low-cost carriers such as Jetstar, Tiger Airways and AirAsia. They typically cover destinations within a five-hour flying radius of their bases.

The market share of low-cost carriers at Changi Airport has jumped from 5.6 per cent of total passenger traffic in 2005 to 25.6 per cent last year. In 2005, 1.8 million passengers flew on low-cost carriers. Last year, 11.9 million did so.

Mrs Teo said: 'Our country factor is still very strong... For business and recreational reasons, we're still attracting a lot of traffic.'

Much of this growth has been driven by new attractions in Singapore such as the integrated resorts and, more recently, Gardens by the Bay, said CTC Travel spokesman Alicia Seah. She said the growing number of Singaporeans travelling and making regular short trips has also contributed to the increase in Changi's overall traffic.

This has not only benefited Singapore's economy, but also reduced the threat from other hub airports, such as those in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Dubai, industry watchers said.

Travellers intending to transfer can choose between hubs but if Singapore is their destination, they will have no option but to fly to Changi Airport.