Singapore and Hong Kong are often compared as travel destinations because tourist attractions in both countries are man-made, and they rely heavily on experiences such as shopping, amusement parks and restaurants. One of the main challenges for both cities has therefore been getting the same tourists make repeated visits.
The Singapore Tourism Board is trying to ensure the city state remains relevant by organizing a robust line of events throughout the year and forming strategic partnerships.
"Partnerships with Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines allow us to go into the international marketing space in a much more concerted way and effective way. We also have very good partnerships with JTB in Japan and Flight Centre in Australia, and that's helping us to drive tourists from those destinations as well," Lionel Yeo, CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board, told CNBC.
About 58.7 million passengers pass through Singapore's Changi every year, and that airport has been ranked the world's best for five consecutive years.
Events are a major attraction for tourists to Singapore, and its Formula 1 race has been a major crowd-puller over the past eight years. To add to that success, the Singapore tourism board is working to bring in other sporting events. Soccer's International Champions Cup, which will be held for the first time in Singapore this year, and mixed-martial arts showdown UFC Fight Night will be held there in June.
In Hong Kong, the annual Rugby Sevens attracts a large amount of tourists to the city, and Zeman told CNBC the city needs more such events.
"I think we need to look at having an event a month, and if we can, become the event capital of Asia," he said.
Both Singapore and Hong Kong are so-called MICE hubs — which is short for destinations for meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions. As important financial centers, attracting tourism dollars from business travelers provides a large source of income.
Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that Singapore topped the MasterCard index for visitor expenditure in Asia Pacific.