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Singapore tourism emerges from 2020 with greater resilience

Despite enduring its toughest year on record, Singapore tourism has taken strides to reimagine its offerings and experiences, while supporting nationwide efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourism-related companies have benefited from various government support measures to transform their products and offerings, while building new capabilities to position themselves for future growth opportunities.

Keith Tan scaled e1613546542939 Singapore tourism emerges from 2020 with greater resilience
Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB)

Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said: “Singapore’s tourism sector has had to fight for survival in 2020. 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.”

He continued, “I am also grateful for their commitment to keep Singaporeans and residents safe and well. STB remains confident in Singapore’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.”

To ensure that Singapore remains top of mind even while travel is curtailed, STB’s regional offices launched new initiatives to engage its fans and strengthen Singapore’s brand image around the world. STB partnered with technology, media and tourism industry players in key source markets to jointly promote Singapore as an attractive destination for future travellers.

India is an important visitor source market for Singapore. and  The Singapore Tourism Board and its tourism partners have been leveraging technology and the digital medium for consumer outreach in the India market since the beginning of the lockdown as they have realised that it is important to continue engaging with and entertaining the audience in such extraordinary times and keep Singapore close to their hearts and minds.

Interesting virtual consumer activations with brands such as Zomato, BookMyShow, NH7 Weekender, Windmill Festival, St+art India Foundation, Tripoto have been executed where Indian artistes and influencers have collaborated with Singaporean artistes where they were also to showcase their passions and talents and connect with the Indian audiences virtually.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, STB India has undertaken the #UnitedWeStand trade engagement theme to ramp up trade engagement efforts. Video messages showcasing solidarity and unity with the travel fraternity, launch of a whatsapp business channel, update sessions and webinars on Destination Singapore to upskill their partners’ leisure and MICE product knowledge, etc. were some of the initiatives undertaken by STB in the market.

Recently, STB concluded its first virtual travel trade engagement roadshows for 2021 in India. Based on this year’s theme, “Charting Our Pathways to Tourism Recovery”, the roadshows aimed at strengthening partnerships and planning on how to grow the tourism business and prepare for travel restart once the situation normalises.

During the roadshow, the STB shared updates on the COVID-19 situation in Singapore and how the country is preparing for tourism re-start and recovery in 2021 and beyond. The roadshows included close to 48 key stakeholders from Singapore representing hotels, airlines, integrated resorts, attractions, Destination Management Companies (DMC) and cruise operators and were attended by over 3000 buyers from India.

Singapore Tourism
GB Srithar, Regional Director (India, Middle East and South Asia), Singapore Tourism Board (STB)

GB Srithar, Regional Director (India, Middle East and South Asia), Singapore Tourism Board while talking about the outlook for the India market adds: “Singapore has made progress in its gradual and calibrated return to some normalcy. We had entered the third phase of a three-phased ‘A Safe Singapore’ transition since 28 December 2020 and are adopting a deliberate and cautious re-opening of our borders for international travel, with necessary safeguards in place. We are prepared for recovery to be a slow and deliberate process but we are confident that we can overcome this pandemic.

STB is confident that along with our valued partner-friends and tourism partners, we will come together to share and exchange ideas and jointly configure the pathways to recovery for travel and tourism.”

Contributing to COVID-19 efforts amid adversity

Due to unprecedented global travel restrictions and border closures, Singapore saw a decline in both visitor arrivals and tourism receipts in 2020. Visitor arrivals (VA) fell by 85.7 per cent in 2020 to reach 2.7 million visitors (nearly all from the first two months of 2020), while tourism receipts (TR) declined by 78.4 per cent to S$4.4 billion in the first three quarters of 2020.

Even during this difficult year, tourism businesses played a key role in Singapore’s battle against COVID-19. Hotels offered their properties for various accommodation purposes, including Government Quarantine Facilities, Swab Isolation Facilities and Stay-Home Notice Dedicated Facilities (SDFs). Many tourist guides stepped up as Safe Distancing Ambassadors (SDAs), capitalizing on their people and language skills to urge compliance to safe management measures (SMMs).

Resuming Operations Safely

As Singapore’s economy gradually re-opened in the second half of 2020, the tourism sector faced a new challenge: working out how to resume operations safely while providing meaningful customer experiences. STB engaged industry stakeholders to develop their re-opening proposals and implement the necessary SMMs. As of 25 January 2021, 45 attractions, 270 hotels, and 1,686 tour itineraries have received approval to resume operations.

From November 2020, Singapore also piloted cruises with enhanced safety protocols and no ports of call for two of Singapore’s homeported cruise lines – Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International. To rebuild consumer confidence and demand for cruise, STB established the world’s first CruiseSafe Certification – a mandatory audit and certification programme for cruise lines before they commence sailing.

Many tourism establishments have also been certified SG Clean, a national mark of excellence that indicates our businesses adhere to high standards of environmental public hygiene on their premises. As of 25 January 2021, STB has issued more than 1,390 SG Clean Quality Mark certificates to tourism-related premises.

Resuming MICE and leisure events

From 1 October 2020, STB began accepting applications for organisers to pilot MICE events of up to 250 attendees. As of 31 December 2020, Singapore has held 29 MICE event pilots, with the first being the Singapore International Energy Week in end October 2020. Singapore also developed testing protocols for foreign delegates and other visitors arriving for events such as TravelRevive and the ONE Championship events, to safeguard public health.

Supporting Transformation of Singapore’s travel industry

Since the start of the outbreak, STB has worked closely with industry partners to chart a new path for the tourism sector. In February 2020, the Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC), comprising tourism leaders from both the private and public sectors, was set up to develop and implement joint recovery strategies.

Looking ahead

Even with the development of vaccines, it will take time for mass leisure travel and travellers’ confidence to return. Therefore, STB expects tourism arrivals and tourism receipts to remain weak in 2021.

In 2021, STB will continue to support quality tourism businesses to sustain key capabilities and build new ones, and to innovate in order to meet evolving consumer needs and emerging travel trends once cross-border travel resumes in a significant way.

Read more: Singapore

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