According to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Friday (7 Feb), the coronavirus epidemic will have a more damaging impact on the aviation sector compared to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003.
The reason for this is because China has now become a bigger market as well as a bigger source of tourism for Singapore and the region, Mr Khaw remarked as he visited Changi Airport.
One-third of the retail sales at Changi Airport is now made up by Chinese retail sales.
Bearing these matters in mind, the government is looking to design a Budget that will include measures that will support the sector which will be unveiled later this month, he added.
Mr Khaw remarked that the approximately 7,000 to 8,000 employed workers in the retail sector at Changi Airport is especially a concern. If retrenchment occurs among the workers, many families will be affected by this, he stressed.
During the Sars epidemic, five per cent of travelling traffic at Changi Airport was made up of Chinese tourists, Mr Khaw further said: “Now, they account for 11 per cent, so it is double in terms of percentage and even more by absolute numbers. But the purchasing power has increased even more… They account for one-third of retail sales in Changi, and the one-third has evaporated.”
Retail shops and local airlines such as SilkAir, Singapore Airlines and Scoot are both suffering, he noted.
The traffic between China and Singapore, traffic volume and flights have both dropped significantly by 60 per cent to 70 per cent and by 70 per cent to 80 per cent each respectively, Mr Khaw stated: “The loading of our own carriers to China has come down a lot. Some flights are below 20 per cent to 30 per cent.”
He further assured that a package will be developed to assist the aviation industry as the Transport Ministry is “very feverishly” working together with the Ministry of Finance.
Mr Khaw did not expound further on the help package, but remarked that the package will be “meaningful and effective”.
During this time, shops could focus on upskilling their workers in preparation for the future when the situation becomes better and that because of the reduced activity at the airport, construction of Terminal 5 could also be sped up, he remarked.
Businesses operating at Jewel Changi Airport noted the lesser crowd at the complex.
“It was the first time the mall was so quiet on the weekend,” a staff worker at a baby clothes shop in Jewel pointed out on a Sunday.