The Singapore tourism sector has the toughest year on record in 2020 but the industry fought back by reimaging its offerings and experiences, while supporting nationwide efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Singapore’s tourism sector has had to fight for survival in 2020,” stated Keith Tan, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive, in a detailed review from the tourism body to mark the one-year anniversary of the Covid outbreak.
“Our tourism businesses have displayed immense resilience and adaptability throughout this difficult period, reinventing their business models and leveraging technology to find solutions in a Covid-19 world.”
Unprecedented global travel restrictions and border closures saw a sharp dip in both visitor arrivals and tourism receipts to Singapore. Visitor arrivals fell by 85.7% to 2.7 million (mostly within the first two months of 2020), while tourism receipts fell by 78.4% to SG$4.4 billion in the first three quarters of the same year.
STB revealed that despite the difficult times tourism businesses in the city-state bandied together to keep the sector going and helping to keep jobs through various intiatives and campaigns.
The STB statement detailed these collaborative efforts in 2020. Following is a snapshot of some of these efforts:
- Hotels offered their properties for various accommodation purposes; more than 70 have served as Stay-Home Notice Dedicated Facilities (SDFs) since March.
- Genting Cruise Lines and SATS-Creuers Cruise Services provided foreign worker dormitory on their ships as accommodation for thousands of workers who had recovered from Covid.
- Tourist guides, with their people and language skills, have stepped up as Safe Distancing Ambassadors (SDAs), with 150 deployed at tourism precincts, hotels and other tourism establishments since the start of the pandemic. In the coming months STB expects the number to grow to over 250 as business and leisure events gradually resume.
Tan expressed his gratitude to the industry players, “For their commitment to keep Singaporeans safe and well.”
He added that STB remains confident in the city-state’s position as “One of the world’s safest and most attractive leisure and business destination, and the long-term prospects of Singapore’s tourism sector.”
“While mass international travel is unlikely to resume in a major way in 2021, STB will continue standing together with our industry partners to prepare for recovery and to start building a better and more sustainable future for tourism,” he added.
STB has also unveiled a series of programmes and partnerships to accelerate recovery, rebuild for the future and support transformation:
- Setting up the Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC), comprising tourism leaders from both the private and public sectors to develop and implement joint recovery strategies.
- Formation of the Alliance for Action on Enabling Safe and Innovative Visitor Experiences under the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST) to explore new ways to facilitate safe and innovative visitor experiences in a Covid environment.
- Collaboration with the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) and Enterprise Singapore to launch the Event Industry Resilience Roadmap.
- Working with the Singapore Hotel Association to support the hotels industry’s efforts in upskilling their workers.
- Launched a SG$20 million Marketing Partnership Programme (MPP) to support marketing efforts by tourism businesses to build demand. Alongside this are the Singapore Stories Content Fund (SGSCF) to encourage content creators to create compelling stories about Singapore, as well as the Business Improvement Fund (BIF) and the TIP-iT scheme motivate tourism businesses to innovate and adapt.
- Development of tools to further accelerate the pace of industry transformation, including the Tourism Transformation Index (TXI), and the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (Stan).
STB opines that even with the development of several vaccines, it will take time for mass leisure travel and travelers confidence to return. It expects expect tourism arrivals and tourism receipts to remain weak in 2021.
The tourism board said it would continue to support tourism businesses to innovate to meet evolving consumer needs and emerging travel trends.