Batam in Indonesia is luring tourists with its gambling stations that often operate secretively.
The re-opening of some gambling dens in region, which were closed following protests by Islamic clerics, is a big draw with tourists from Singapore and Malaysia. Figures show that increasing numbers of Singaporeans and Malaysians have been spending time during weekends in Batam, Riau Islands, over the last few months. Operators in the region have reopened gambling and gaming sites on the island after they were closed down some time back.
Even though local authorities have denied that they have provided licenses for the gambling dens, records indicate that officials have recently issued 14 licenses for recreation and gaming facilities. The move was in response to the urgent needs to revive tourism on the island, where tourism is a big revenue earner.
Yusfa Hendri, head of the Batam municipal tourism office, said, ‘An increasing number of foreign tourists have been gradually reviving the island’s service industry such as hotels, restaurants and transportation, and indirectly generating more job opportunities on the island.’
He denied that gaming centres that were offered licenses recently were gambling centres. He said that his office had received 30 applications for recreation and gaming centre licenses. The office had issued 30 licenses.
The gambling dens provide gambling machines that have particularly attracted tourists from neighbouring countries where such facilities are restricted. The island has also been the cause of increasing tourism to adjacent islands such as Bintan and Tanjungpinang. The local police shut down gaming centres in Batam in November 2011.
Yusfa said that the tourism office would continue to offer programmes to encourage recreation to entice foreigners to visit the island.
Americans are travelling less. Industry leaders have blamed the decline in travel on falling income figures and a lack of savings, despite the economy’s slow progress towards complete recovery and the nation’s penchant for spending. International travel, once a standard annual activity for middle class families throughout the nation, is now considered a luxury that may have to wait a year.
But one American tourism icon continues to attract visitors in record numbers: Las Vegas. The town that truly defines sin has seen continued growth in its tourism industry, bringing in a record eighteen million visitor throughout the first six months of 2010. Hotels bookings are fairly constant, despite a decline in occupancy rates throughout the United States’ biggest holiday centres.
Why the unexpected increase? Las Vegas has maintained an 82 percent occupancy rate over the past six months – a significant increase from its peak periods just a year ago and much higher than rates seen in other tourism cities. Travel industry experts have pointed to the city’s growing family appeal as reason for the consistency, with hotels reporting a greater amount of non-gambling visitors.
It’s a theory that’s backed up by the city’s gaming revenues. While visitors flocked to Las Vegas in the past six months, the city took in seven percent less tax revenue from its major casinos. Gaming industry journalists have pointed to a lack of disposable income as the cause of low gaming income, as many of the city’s frequent gamblers lack to the funds to attend frequent casino events.
For Nevada, the chance in revenue represents a transformation that’s been taking place in Sin City for several decades. As the city sheds its sleaze appeal and grows into a family destination, income is likely to diversify across different sectors of the tourism industry. While it’s unlikely to mark the end of Vegas as a gaming hotspot, this will be good news for tourism operators in the region.