How Singapore is reviving its tourism industry

Published: 10 June 2020 - 3 a.m.
Singapore witnessed almost 100% decline in international tourist arrivals as only around 750 visitors arrived in April 2020. According to Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the international tourist arrivals stood at approximately 1.6 million in April 2019.

The decline in international arrivals is because passengers travelling as short-term visitors were not allowed to transit or enter Singapore. COVID-19 has compelled countries globally to adopt different degrees of restrictive measures. However, the country is commissioning strategies, including some health and hygiene measures to resume travelling and boost the tourism sector in Singapore.

Broadly, the restrictions put by countries can be categorised into five key and broad groups, which are complete/partial closing of borders, suspension of flights, restrictions on specific source markets, quarantine or self-isolation and visa cancellations or suspension of an arrival visa facility. Singapore is under the first category i.e., complete/partial closing of borders.

Airlines, cruises, lodging and hospitality, shopping, car rental, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions (MICE) and restaurants have all suffered due to COVID-19 restrictions. Travel restrictions and consumer uncertainty have significantly suppressed the demand for air travel in and out of Singapore. Expectedly, increase in cases led to a drop in hotel demand and revenue per available room (RevPAR).

Singapore is undertaking several activities to help the tourism industry and instil confidence among the locals. A Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC) has been formed. It is a public-private cooperation group set up to develop and implement strategies to aid the industry. Moreover, aids and stimulus have been committed to support the tourism sector, as part of the ‘Support and Stabilisation’ package. These are the additional broad-based measures announced in the Singapore Budget 2020.

Moreover, Singapore’s new government-led certification programme for hotels and restaurants is likely to help in restoring confidence of the customers. To get the ‘SG Clean’ quality mark, a premises-based sanitation and hygiene indicator, businesses are required to have robust hygiene as well as safety practices. The certification can be attained by various types of establishments like restaurants, coffee shops, canteens, hawker centres, hotels and resorts, shopping malls, shops, attractions, MICE venues, cruise terminals, transport nodes, schools among others. The programme is voluntary and several establishments have already been certified under the programme.

It is important for travel and tourism destinations to carry out activities and run campaigns that help in improving the image and restoring confidence. New practices to monitor and control the environment and strict sanitary and hygiene measures would have to be adopted and promoted. Singapore’s ‘SG Clean’ initiative is indeed a step in the right direction.

Though Singapore is planning to resume essential travel and is in talks with countries to facilitate safety measures like health screening and contact tracing, international arrivals in significant numbers may take a while. It would depend upon how soon COVID-19 can be controlled as well as on restrictions in destination as well as source markets. In the meantime, safety and hygiene measures would help in bringing locals to different businesses under travel and tourism industry. Several destinations are also engaging with potential travellers through online campaigns and virtual tours as they help in keeping the destination at the top of mind. Singapore has always been proactive in such much measures and should enhance the efforts. These would increase preparedness for post-COVID-19 period, once the travel restrictions are lifted.

Animesh Kumar is director of travel and tourism consulting at GlobalData.

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