It was the toughest year on record, but 2020 also saw Singapore’s tourism sector taking strides to reimagine its offerings and experiences, while supporting nationwide efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
Due to unprecedented global travel restrictions and border closures, Singapore saw a decline in both visitor arrivals and tourism receipts in 2020. Visitor arrivals plunged by 85.7% in 2020 to 2.7 million visitors (nearly all from the first two months of 2020), while tourism receipts declined by 78.4%t to S$4.4 billion in the first three quarters of 2020.
"Singapore's tourism sector has had to fight for survival in 2020," said Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Keith Tan in a recent statement. "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. I am also grateful for their commitment to keep Singaporeans safe and well."
Tan was referring to the various ways tourism suppliers and operators were involved in the country's Covid-19 fight.
For example, more than 70 hotels such as Mandarin Orchard Singapore and Dorsett Singapore have served as Stay-Home Notice Dedicated Facilities (SDFs) since March.
Genting Cruise Lines and SATS-Creuers Cruise Services also worked with Singapore authorities to house foreign workers who have recovered from Covid-19 on board SuperStar Gemini in April last year. When cruising resumed in November 2020, cruise ambassadors made up of Singaporeans were also recruited to soften the pandemic's blow on job losses in the local economy.
STB worked to redeploy tour guides as Safe Distancing Ambassadors (SDAs), tapping on their people and language skills. About 150 of them have served in this capacity to date, and the number is expected to hit 250 in the coming months as business and leisure events gradually resume.
Although mass international travel is unlikely to resume in a major way in 2021, Tan said that 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".
On its part, STB will continue standing together with industry partners to prepare for recovery and to start building a better and more sustainable future for tourism, Tan declared.
The formation of the Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC) and The Alliance for Action on Enabling Safe and Innovative Visitor Experiences under the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST) brought together comprising tourism leaders from both the private and public sectors, among other efforts.
Other efforts include collaboration between the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) collaborating with STB and Enterprise Singapore to launch the Event Industry Resilience Roadmap, and STB and the Singapore Hotel Association supporting the hotels industry’s efforts in upskilling their workers.
To accelerate recovery and rebuild for the future, STB unveiled a series of programmes and partnerships in 2020, including a S$20 million Marketing Partnership Programme (MPP) and various initiatives and grants such as the Business Improvement Fund (BIF) and the TIP-iT scheme to encourage tourism businesses to innovate and adapt.
STB also developed tools to further accelerate the pace of industry transformation, including the Tourism Transformation Index (TXI), and the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (Stan).