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Singapore not celebrating Qantas exit


Singapore's Changi Airport and the city-state's tourism authority aren't celebrating the Qantas decision to move its regional hub to Dubai, says the chief operating officer of hotel group Far East Hospitality.

Raphael Saw, who is paying a 24-hour visit to Sydney to promote the Singaporean hotel company's brand to Australia for the first time, says the gap will be keenly felt.

"With that vacancy, there must be a loss of some visitors from Australia, some of whom go on to Europe," he told AAP.

"We know that, even though Qantas will still be flying in from Adelaide.

"Australia is an important market for us.

"It's not the end of the world and the air space left behind by Qantas will eventually be filled up by regional airlines, but it's safe to say the airport and Singapore tourism are not celebrating.

"Australia has a big business hub in Singapore, though, and is popular for conferences, so we don't see that as changing."

Qantas-operated services from Sydney and Melbourne to European destinations will operate through Dubai from March 31, 2013, rather than through Singapore.

While Australian arrivals remain in the top five feeder markets to Singapore, bigger increases are coming from developing countries such as Indonesia, China and India, says Mr Saw, who used to work in the airline industry.

About one million Australians visit Singapore each year.

Last year they contributed $S276 million to the Singaporean economy. This figure excludes sightseeing and entertainment expenditure, which includes gambling.

Overall hotel occupancy rates climbed to 86.4 per cent in 2011, according to the tourism board, while visitor arrivals rose to a record 13.2 million.

Far East is the hospitality arm of Singapore's largest private property developer, Far East Orchard Ltd.

Its portfolio comprises eight hotels in strategic locations from the airport to Orchard Road, and nine serviced residences.

In its August trading debut, it raised $S717 million in the city-state's largest initial public offering this year.