by Nisha Ramchandani
THE weakened pound sterling may have persuaded more Singaporeans to head for Britain last year but British tourism authorities are not resting on their laurels.
VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues told BT yesterday that customer demands are evolving in light of the downturn.
Tourism is on the decline worldwide in the wake of a deteriorating global economy.
But Mr Rodrigues pointed out that businesses that offer a quality product at a fair price are more likely to succeed. He was in town as part of a region-wide visit to raise Britain's tourism profile.
Mr Rodrigues said that, with the 2012 Olympic Games in London coming up, efforts will be made to showcase Britain, as well as improve the travel experience for spectators.
'We will use the Games to showcase the whole of Britain, as opposed to just London,' he said, adding that the event was a 'big opportunity' to leverage on.
He expects total visitor arrivals in Britain to decline 3.3 per cent this year, grow marginally by 0.1 per cent in 2010 before hitting 4 per cent growth the following year.
Meanwhile, the number of visitor arrivals from Singapore last year jumped 22 per cent to 119,293, as the pound fell by about 30 per cent in the second half of 2008.
VisitBritain's data also shows that spending by Singapore visitors rose 9 per cent to £103 million (S$226 million), which works out to about £870 per head.
Visitors arrivals from Malaysia and Thailand, however, fell. This led to a 3 per cent dip in traffic from the three neighbours to 245,475.
Interestingly, spending by Malaysians rose 7 per cent to £75 million even as their numbers dropped to 75,770, which works out to some £10 short of £1,000 per head.
As for Thailand, VisitBritain said that visitor arrivals was down at 50,412, 'a reflection of the impact of their current internal situation on outbound travel'.
Still, things could be looking up. Beside the cheaper pound, airlines and hotels are rolling out attractive promotional rates to draw travellers.
Just this week, it was reported that AirAsia X - the long-haul arm of Malaysia's low-cost carrier AirAsia - will be upping the frequency of its Stansted-Kuala Lumpur flights to a daily service from July 1, not long after the first flight took to the skies in March.
AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani said that the increase was due to unprecedented demand from business travellers and students. To mark the occasion, AirAsia X is also offering a one-way fare from RM499 (S$206).