Singapore visitors rise to record 13 million

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SINGAPORE (AP) -- A record number of visitors came to Singapore last year as new casinos lured gamblers, the tourism authority said Tuesday.

Visitor arrivals rose to 13.2 million, up 13 percent from 2010, the Tourism Board said in a statement. About 2.6 million Indonesians visited Singapore last year, followed by tourists from China, Malaysia and Australia.

Tourism industry revenue jumped 17 percent to a record 22.2 billion Singapore dollars ($17.8 billion), the board said. Revenue from sightseeing and entertainment, which includes gambling, soared 37 percent to SG$5.5 billion.

Visitor arrivals have more than doubled since 2003 and tourism has become a key economic growth driver for the city-state of 5 million people. The government expects the economy, which also relies on manufacturing and finance, to expand as little as 1 percent this year, down from 4.8 percent last year.

France is the world's most visited country by international tourists with 77 million in 2010, followed by the U.S. with 60 million.

Singapore's world-class shopping malls used to be the key tourist draw but its first two casino resorts have helped attract visitors since they opened in 2010, particularly from neighboring Asian countries.

Arrivals from China surged 35 percent in 2011, the first full year the casinos were operating.

The government has sought to keep Singaporeans out of the casinos, imposing a SG$100 entry fee on citizens. Regulators this week fined Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s Marina Bay Sands SG$255,000 and Genting Singapore Ltd.'s Resorts World Sentosa SG$130,000 for breaking admission rules such as allowing Singaporeans to enter the casinos without paying the entry levies.