Singapore plans to ease restrictions on the movement of business and leisure visitors into the country, as the nation that is heavily dependent on tourism has seen a hard hit to the health of the industry. Travelers to Singapore contributed to almost S$28 billion in tourism dollars last year.
This move is after the forecast that mass traveling is not expected to resume to its usual volume anytime soon, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Keith Tan, chief executive officer of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on Tuesday (4 Aug).
“Whether it is a broader range of business visitors or, for example, small groups of tightly controlled leisure visitors, all these are being considered and are on the table,” said Mr Tan.
He was speaking in a virtual interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin.
Mr Tan added the STB is in talks with the government to expand green lane arrangements to a wider range of visitors. It is currently only in place with Malaysia and China.
Visits in June only saw 2,200, down from 1.6 million in the same month last year.
Job losses so far in the sector have been in the very low thousands, but existing government support for rent, taxes and salaries are starting to taper off, he remarked.
Owing to this, he expects more job losses in the tourism sector in the coming months.
“It will be a long while more before mass travel can resume and that ultimately stems from consumer confidence,” said the tourism chief, who added a vaccine or effective therapies are needed to alleviate the “fear and anxiety” many people have, even just simply travelling on a plane.
Singapore’s travel-related sectors contribute roughly 4% of its gross domestic product. Since the onset of the pandemic, retail sales plummeted by more than 50% in May from a year earlier.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in July, the global industry is expected to lose US$3.3 trillion if the plunge in global leisure travel continues until March 2021.
Efforts to help the tourism industry rebound
To cushion the blow on arguably one of the worst hit sectors, STB announced on Friday (24 Apr) that a sum of $22 million has been allocated to aid in the tourism business market, their services as well as prepare for demand when the travelling market recovers.
Subsequently on Wednesday (22 Jul), STB launched a campaign targeted at driving “tourism” dollars from within the nation. This is in partnership with Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC).
Dubbed “SingapoRediscovers”, the S45 million campaign focuses on three broad areas:
- Partnering local communities to help locals discover hidden gems
- Curating precinct itineraries to create authentic experiences for locals
- Collaborating with hotels, tour operators, attractions and precincts to develop quality experiences and attractive promotions
To this Mr Tan said: “Through this campaign, we hope that Singaporeans will gain fresh perspectives, and take a short holiday – or a Singapoliday – to rediscover their own country and help support local businesses.”
On the same day, a risk management framework was also introduced by STB to facilitate the gradual resumption of business events in Singapore in light of the post-COVID lockdown measures.
The board plans to trial this framework in two pilot hybrid events – end of August and end of September – before gradually extending it to other types of events and more EOs.
The hybrid events will include a mix of face-to-face and virtual interactions.
On 3 April 2019, Singapore announced plans to invest in enhancing its tourism hub status, including a S$9 billion expansion of its two integrated casino resorts by Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Genting Singapore Ltd. Mr Tan confirmed that this will go ahead.