International tourism has grown substantially over the years due to rising standard of living, technological advancement, and globalization. Tourism is also one of the key industries with a significant impact on the global economy (Tham, 2006). In the case of Singapore, it received 10.3 million visitors and a total expenditure of $14.1 billion in the year 2007 compared to 9.8 million visitors and a total expenditure of $12.4 billion in the year 2006 (Singapore Tourism Board, 2007) during a good economy.
Singapore is fairly a ‘small red dot’ on the globe with limited natural sceneries and leisure places for its people to enjoy. Hence, many of the Singapore residents prefer to travel out of Singapore. According to the data from Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA), the total outbound departures of Singapore residents for the year 2008 had risen by 804,234 to 6,828,362 as compared to 2007 at 6,024,128.
There is a growing number of Singaporeans from all age groups, between 18 to 65 years old, traveling overseas frequently to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and Hong Kong SAR as it seemed that traveling has become part of their lifestyle. With the gradual increase in the income level of employed workers as well as a good starting pay for the newcomers who had just graduated from universities and began their working lives, the younger and better educated Singaporeans are now able to enjoy affordable recreational and leisure activities which could not have been possible previously.
In Singapore, a number of research works had placed their focus on visitor’s traveling trend (inbound) to Singapore, analyzing travelers’ choice of the travel agency and travelers usage on travel agency (Goldsmith and Litvin, 1999). However, there is no research on outbound travel particularly in areas like examining the trend of travellers’ profile in Singapore that affect or influence them in travelling especially during bad times where the world is facing economic downturns as well as the current swine flu influenza which appeared abruptly in April 2009 killing 231 people in Mexico, Canada and USA (World Health Organisation, 2009).
According to the Singapore Department of Statistics for the year 2008, Singapore had a population of 4.84 million and out of which, 3.64 million were Singapore citizens (including permanent residents). Singapore’s socio-demographic had changed rapidly over the years especially the growing aging population as highlighted in the report on aging population (2006) that the number of residents aged 65 years or older will multiply threefold from current 300,000 to 900,000 in the year 2030; dual income families (the average monthly household income from work6 had grown by 12.5% at $7,750 in the year 2008 vs. $6,890 of last year); the growing trend of many young couples who prefer not to have children so as to enjoy two-person lifestyle (total fertility rate 2007 stood at 1.29 per female out of 42.6 female of general marriage rate); and rising of single adults (15% males and 12.6% females of age between 40 to 44) in year 2007.
Tourism today is vulnerable to natural disasters and crisis. The effect of terrorists attacked in World Trade Center, New York, and Pentagon had tremendously brought the tourism industry to a halt for a long period of time with an estimated loss of US10 billion (Floyd et al., 2004) and it took several months for travelers’ to regain their confidence in traveling. The impact on the flow of information from the news media could change the travelers’ attitude, perception and behavior on the impression of risks that travelers would face when traveling (Valencia and Crouch, 2008).
Travel expenditure patterns are vital to travel organizers and destination marketers (Jang et al., 2004). The growth in international tourism spending had reached 5.6% (adjusted for exchange rate fluctuations and inflation) in 2007, in particular, strong in Asia and Pacific with an increase of 11% (WTO, 2008).
Hoe (2007) reported that in the 2007 Country Brand Index, a global survey made by over 2,600 international travelers, Singapore was ranked as the first Asian country that most people want to live in among Asian cities, and came in the fourth position in the global category.
In the year 2008, there were 39% of employed households earned a median monthly household income of S$4950, and the residents’ expenditure abroad had gradually increased from $11.54 million in the year 2003 to $14.31 million in 2007(DSS, 2008). It was assumed that the household income has the correlation with the number of overseas trips made by the individual or per household in a year.
According to Nicolau and Mas (2005), the effect of distance and prices are moderated by tourist motivations at the moment of choosing a destination. The findings conducted in Spain concluded that individual is ‘not incline towards long trips’ and prefer a shorter distance. However, they do not mind longer journeys if they are visiting family or friend or exploring new places. Contradictory, this group of people is unwilling to pay more for expensive places where family or friend resides but are willing to pay to explore new places. Nicolau and Mas (2005) also highlighted that people who are looking for culture are generally more willing to pay higher prices, whereas those looking for climate are less willing.
In Singapore, with the rapid changes in socio-demographic over the years, there had been an increasing number of young adults age ranging from 15 to 34 years old that travel overseas at least once a year to neighboring countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand (DSS, 2005). Some of the possible reasons of short distance traveling could be financial constraints or not able to take longer leave from work. Heung and Chu (2000) found that travelers with lower income are more concerned with pricing than travelers with higher income.
Travel is considered a leisure activity (Turco, Stumbo, & Garncarz, 1998). Neal, Uysal and Sirgy (2007) also confirmed that travel is an important aspect of leisure life. Given the high standard cost of living in Singapore and heavy pressure from work, many Singaporeans chose to maintain a balanced lifestyle between work and relaxation by traveling out of Singapore. Hence majority choose to escape from work to enjoy recreation activities with family or friends. Zabriskie & McCormick (2001) concluded that ‘Families are still considered to be the fundamental units of society and are perhaps the oldest and most important of all human institutions.