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Singapore’s Tourists Are Choosing Shopping Over Gambling

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The Esplanade Theatres on the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino stands in Singapore.Seong-joon Cho—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Tourists heading to Singapore would rather part with their cash on top-brand goods than on casino chips, judging by the latest numbers.

According to official figures from the city-state’s Tourism Board, the Lion City’s tourism industry has earned more from shopping than from gambling in the six months running up to June 2016, Bloomberg reports. Numbers show that visitor spending in shops grew by 44% compared to the same period in 2015, while gambling and sightseeing spending fell during the same timeframe.

The growth in shopping expense can be explained by Chinese tourists going to Singapore for the first time, an HSBC analyst told Bloomberg. Last year Singapore attracted 2.1 million visitors from China—more than double that of 2009, one year before casino operations began for the first time. On average, each Chinese visitor spent over $1,200 in the city-state in 2015, according to Bloomberg, topping visitors from any other country.

In total, Chinese tourists spent a total of $807 million in Singaporean shops in 2015, according to numbers from the Singapore Tourism Board. But while their shopping bill last year far outstripped that by visitors from anywhere else, they also spent less on hotels and meals compared to other visitors in the same period.

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Shrinking exports and sluggish domestic spending have contributed to Singapore’s recent economic uncertainties. According to Reuters, the city-state’s exports have fallen by 5.0%-5.5% this year, and its Ministry of Trade and Industry lowered its GDP growth projection for 2016 from 1.0%-2.0% down to 1.0%-1.5%. The news came weeks after the Nov. 8 U.S. election raised fears of the impact on global trade should a Donald Trump administration pursue a policy of protectionism.