Singapore is currently carrying one third of the global cruise passengers, an impressive feat considering that the small city-state is home to just 5.7 million residents.
That proportion is likely to be reduced in the coming months as more cruise lines gradually resume sailings around the world,
but Singapore's current dominance – albeit temporarily – was partly the result of disruptive thinking, determination and courage of Singapore tourism.
Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said it took “a lot of gumption on our part” to reopen cruising at a time when globally the cruise industry was at a standstill.
“We didn’t ask, should we or shouldn’t we? We asked, how do we do it? That spirit keeps pushing us to break new ground and test new concepts,” he said at Tourism Industry Conference 2021, which was organised by Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
When domestic sailings were given the green light to resume in 4Q 2020, Singapore implemented a CruiseSafe certification programme that cruise operators had to comply with before resuming services. Six months later, the ongoing “cruises to nowhere” have so far seen more than 120,00 passengers sailed on the open ocean.
That same spirit of trialling and breaking new ground also pushed it to open and test safe business events on the domestic front. To date, a total of 60 pilot events have been held, attended by close to 9,000 attendees.
The spirit of breaking new ground and testing new concepts was what Minister Chan and STB's chief executive Keith Tan kept reiterating in their messages to tourism players at the recent industry event.
“Because if we go back to doing things in the same way, we would have wasted this crisis and will be unprepared for the next crisis, which will most certainly come. But if we successfully address these challenges, we can ensure Singapore will be an attractive
and compelling destination through 2030 and beyond.”
In the meantime, Singapore is working with other countries and regions to establish safe travel protocols, and mutual recognition of health certificates, including testing and vaccination records.
As an indication of its desire to open borders safely, Singapore is the first government to accept the IATA Travel Pass for pre-departure checks for inbound travellers from 1 May.
STB's Tan said he hopes other governments would follow suit but declined to comment if Singapore would also accept other travel passes such as CommonPass.
“We have to find ways to enable travel and the IATA Travel Pass is one of the possibilities – we are open to other solutions,” he said.
In the current complex travel landscape as governments around the world take differing approaches to reopening with much debate over vaccine passports, Tan said Singapore is not waiting for conditions to be right to start talking to like-minded partners
to agree on mutually-assured protocols.
“We start talking now so we can then press the button when we are ready,” he said.
*Additional reporting from Yeoh Siew Hoon, WebinTravel