Air transport is one of the fastest growing transport sectors in the world in recent days. Despite the rapid growth in the use of airlines in the recent days, the sector has faced declines in the profits realised. Recently, there has been a rise in the rate at which new airlines are manufactured especially in the Far East and Southeast Asia regions(Bieger&Wittmer, 2006, pp.40-46). This rampant rise in the manufacture of new airlines could be associated to the ever growing desire by human beings to travel across and view the world as the worldwide affluence is continuously growing. The growth and expansion in the transport sector has had significant influence on tourism development in various nations including Singapore.
Air transport is preferred over the other forms of transport in the tourist sector because it is the only form of transport which is three-dimensional in nature and hence tourists are able to fly over terrestrial obstacles which for a long time have served as dividers of societies over space and time. The graph below demonstrates the rise in the number of passengers using airlines in the Asia.
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Singapore serves as one of the world’s most significant tourist destinations. The nation’s unique cultural heritage, historical buildings, beautiful beaches, national parks, archaeological sites among other interesting activities such as trade fairs and exhibitions attracts thousands of tourists from across the world. Among the notable tourist attraction sites in Singapore are; the Botanic Garden, Marina Bay Sands Resort, the Singapore Flyer, Garden by the Bay among others.
Having realised the important role the low-cost airlines can play to the key areas of the national economy such as tourism, the Singapore government has embraced the development in this sector of the transport industry by putting up measures such as the development of the airport infrastructure as well as the adoption of liberal traffic rights policies(Heng& Low, 1990, pp.246-269). Furthermore, the Civil Aviation of Singapore (CAAS) has channelled a significant amount of resources as well as efforts aimed at promoting the low-cost airlines industry at Changi.
Changi Airport in Singapore was the second in the Asian continent after Kuala Lumpur International Airport of Malaysia to open a terminal dedicated to the budget traveller. The use of low-cost airlines in Singapore has gained momentum in the recent days. For instance, in 2004, within a span of seven months, the government of Singapore set up three low-cost airlines which started full operations to regional destinations immediately. Such low-cost airlines included one Thailand-based airline which concentrated its services mainly to the island city-state(Bowen, 2000, pp.25-41).
In an attempt to promote the growth of low-cost airlines, soon after low cost airlines began operations to and from Singapore, the Singapore government designated a plot of land meant for building a low cost airline terminal (Budget Terminal) situated in the areas near the SIA Catering Centre. By 2006, the government had completed the construction of Budget Terminal which they opened in March 2006. The costs of operation of Terminal 1 have emerged to be lower than those of Terminal 2. The low costs are in line with the needs as well as the operational costs of the low-cost airlines(Jenkins, 1980, pp.22-29). Due to the high expectations from the project once completed, the Singapore government spend a whooping US$30 million on the construction of Budget Terminal.
Despite the small population size in Singapore as well as the negligible domestic air travel, there is a high consumption rate for the low cost airlines boosted by her high per-capita income among her citizens. Today, Singapore has emerged as a major player in the field of low-cost airlines operating giant low cost airlines such as Qantas Airways which become the largest shareholder in 2004 in a joint venture to operate Jetstar Asia. According to the financial reports of 2008, low-costs airlines in Singapore were doing fairly well economically as well as had captured the regional market. For instance, in the financial year ending 31 March 2008, Tiger Airways made a profit of S$37.8 million according to reports by The Straits Time, 7 August 2008. Similarly, Jetstar recorded a 20% increase in revenue with its passenger load factor rising by 4% while at the same time it recorded a passenger a jump in passenger carriage of up to 20% in the same financial year.
These types of airlines have had a big impact on the tourism sector in Singapore. The low cost airlines’ impact on the tourism sector has been particularly more evident in the development of tourism in less popular destinations (Francis, et al. 2006, pp.83-94).
The operation of these airlines is based on various characteristics as well as philosophies such as; putting emphasis on cost and efficiency maximization, transfer of low costs to low tariffs for customers, offer point to point service and not hub and spoke model, run direct flights between given regions, utilize secondary as well as regional airports and believe in the operation of newer, cleaner as well as aircrafts that are more efficient.
Through its weekend, city as well as short-break tourism as well as its ability to effect radical expansion of the potential destinations, low cost airlines have a significant impact on the development of the tourist sector(Escobar-Rodriguez &Carvajal-Trujillo, 2014, pp.70-88). The flexibility of these airlines has extended the range of motivations as well as the frequency of tour by individuals travelling for their private leisure reasons. These airlines have also led to an increase in the number of people moving across the country as a way of enjoying their leisure time.
The low-cost airlines offer luxurious services and facilities such as highly efficient internet which can enable a traveller to enjoy services such as online booking of hotels while on board, hire a car online while on board, buy travel insurance among other online activities. Furthermore, they target overlapping market niche such as cultural tourism which are little known(Akamavi, et al. 2015, pp.528-545). Just as the name low cost suggests, these airlines charge a relatively lower travel fee. This phenomenon has made them affordable to both the rich as well as to the middle income earners. Due to this fact, many people are able to access tourist sites using these airlines hence boosts the tourist sector.
The flexibility nature of the low cost airlines has made them a preferred transport choice by many tourists. These airlines do not have specific destinations unlike the traditional airline models. They in most occasions look for niches and prefer provincial towns that have been abandoned by the national flag carriers as well as High Speed Trains as their destinations(Narangajavana, et al. 2014, pp.28-42).
It is the inherent nature of human beings to be curious and hence want to discover new things. It is for this reason that many people prefer the low cost airlines in the tourism sector. Through the low cost airlines, the tourists are able to access new and exploited destinations for discovery. This has seen new tourist sites discovered and exposed for foreign tourism hence increasing the national income from the tourism sector.
Low cost tourism has enhanced cultural exchange across the region. Due to the reduced costs of travelling across the Asian region, many people are able to travel into new destinations. In the process, many end up mixing with people of a foreign culture and thus learning about the new culture and in some cases copying the foreign culture.Through enabling the discovery of unexploited tourist sites, low cost airlines have promoted growth of the remote areas. Once the areas are discovered and ear marked for tourism, the government puts up infrastructure in such areas in an attempt to boost tourism activities. For instance, the government constructs roads linking the remote areas to allow for access into such areas. Other facilities such as hospitals, hotels, as well as other recreational facilities are set up in the remote areas(Fu &Oum, 2014, pp.11-44). Through such developments, the lives of the residents of the remote areas are impacted positively as they get access to the new developments while others are employed in the tourism sector earning them a livelihood.
Air transport is considered to be having the highest level of negative impacts among the transport sector on the environment. The airlines pollute the environment through the smoke produced as well as the noise they produce. This affects the tourist sector negatively. For instance, the gases the airlines emit leads to acidic rains which kill the flora thus causing a negative impact on the food chain within the ecological niche. On the other hand, the airlines produce a lot of noise which ends up scaring and disturbing the animals while in their natural habitat.
In conclusion, low cost airlines have had several positive impacts on the development of tourism in Singapore. The influence has mostly led to the development of tourism in smaller cities as well as in the less famous destinations which were never exploited for tourism before. This has seen the economy of such areas grow tremendously; a phenomenon which has an impact on the national economy of Singapore. For instance, the ability to pay taxes for people in such remote areas are increased hence the government is able to earn higher taxes for her economic development(Lee, et al. 2014, pp.69-75). Therefore, there is need for the government of Singapore to invest heavily in the low cost airlines to enable her economy grow further.
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From the above analysis, it is worth noting that the low cost airlines have positively influenced the development of tourism in Singapore through enabling access to more remote and neglected areas. Furthermore, the airlines have seen the number of tourists visiting the tourist sites increase rapidly. However, the sector also has negative consequences which affects mostly the environment and therefore, the government should come up with measures to help address such negative consequences and in the process make the low cost airlines more effective.
Some of the measures that should be implemented to ensure environmental sustainability include;
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