Most tourists from Singapore head to US since 2001

( dpa ) - Tourists from Singapore are heading to the United States for holidays in the largest numbers since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a newspaper reported on Monday.

Six agencies have booked more than double the number of US-bound trips for the year-end holiday period since the beginning of 2008 compared to the same period last year, The Straits Times said.

The surge marks the first positive trend in tourists from Singapore since the US travel industry was crippled by the attacks, travel agents said.

Most of the customers have saved up for years to take the long- awaited getaway.

Among the factors prompting the present trend are the strong Singapore dollar paired with a weak US economy to make such trips much more affordable.

"Now it is cheaper," a spokesman for Chan Brothers Travel was quoted as saying. "The weakened US dollar translates to savings from expenditure incurred abroad, which can be fairly hefty for bigger families."

Other big industry players reported a 40-per-cent increase in sales of their US-bound packages.

Singaporeans visiting the US reached 135,000 last year, the closest the figure has come to reaching the pre-September 11 number of 136,000 in the year 2000, according to US Department of Commerce figures.

Father of two Lawrence Ng, 40, paid 12,000 Singapore dollars (8,955 US dollars) for a nine-day package to Florida.

"We have saved up for years and now the price is right, so we decided to take the plunge," he told the newspaper.

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