The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has advised that tourism for 2020 will be significantly impacted as a result of the Coronavirus - also known as COVID-19.
In the wake of reduced travel as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, STB is projecting a 25 to 30% decrease in visitor arrivals this year. As of today, current figures suggest that as COVID-19 continues its global spread, it has killed more than 1,600 and infected more than 68,000 worldwide.
However, STB is attempting to rally confidence stating that Singapore’s tourism sector is aiming for a strong recovery on the back of four years of consecutive growth, a compelling pipeline of tourism investments, and efforts to build new capabilities.
In addition, STB has stated that the government will form a public-private sector Tourism Recovery Action Task Force to lay out the plans for recovery and future growth.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on visitor arrivals, especially from China, which accounts for around 20% of international visitor arrivals. Visitor arrivals from STB’s other key source markets are also expected to fall due to lower travel confidence globally.
As of Friday 14th February, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore rose to 67, with six patients in critical condition.
Singapore Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Friday that the Government is concerned that many of the confirmed cases had remained in the community, and some went to work while ill noting "this is not helpful in our efforts to reduce the risk of community transmission.”
He added that 900 GP clinics will be re-activated as Public Health Preparedness Clinics to provide subsidised treatment for patients with respiratory symptoms and to help the authorities to detect the virus earlier and reduce the risk of further transmission.
STB Chief Executive, Keith Tan accepts that “Singapore’s tourism sector is facing its biggest challenge since SARS in 2003. At this point, we estimate that every day, we lose an average of 18,000 to 20,000 international visitor arrivals to Singapore.”
Tan has noted that the estimate will change depending on three main factors: How long the outbreak in China will last and whether it has economic knock-on effects on the region; how long the situation in Singapore - and other countries in the region - will last; and how long it will take for traveller demand to return.
Tan added “but unlike SARS, we are now better prepared and more resilient. Our destination remains attractive, we have a strong pipeline of tourism products, and our market portfolio is diverse.
“The growth that we have enjoyed over the past four years reflects our strong tourism fundamentals. With the support of the industry and through our joint taskforce, we will continue to build our capabilities, transform our tourism businesses, and rebound strongly from the Novel Coronavirus.
“We see no reason for other countries to have travel advisories on Singapore - we’re very confident in the measures the Government has in place to contain the cases here.”
Kuwait and Qatar are among the countries that have issued advisories urging citizens to defer non-essential travel to Singapore.
According to Tan, retaining Singapore’s brand equity remains a paramount concern for the country’s crisis management efforts as he notes “it is more important than ever to invest in tourism to support our businesses, build confidence in tourism, and boost our destination attractiveness – so that when things start to improve, Singapore can ride on the recovery for strong growth.”
STB advise that The Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC) will map out recovery strategies and plans for tourism in Singapore. The taskforce will comprise tourism leaders from both the private and public sectors, to leverage the strengths of both sectors and to coordinate recovery efforts. Their work will include identifying opportunities arising from the COVID-19 crisis, driving and implementing measures to instil confidence in Singapore’s tourism establishments, as well as co-creating and initiating recovery plans.
To provide immediate support for affected tourism businesses, STB had earlier unveiled measures to waive license fees for hotels, travel agents and tourist guides, and to defray cleaning costs for hotels with suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Additional support measures will be announced this week at the Budget on 18th February.
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