Government AffairsThough international visitor arrivals in 2021 pale in comparison to pre-Covid numbers, Singapore has prepared multiple plans to forge ahead.

Singapore lines up its sights for full recovery

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During the international travel ban, Singapore adapted to focus on domestic tourism.
During the international travel ban, Singapore adapted to focus on domestic tourism. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/Diversity Studio

Singapore ended 2021 with 330,000 international visitor arrivals (IVA) and an estimated S$1.9 billion (US$1.4 billion) in tourism receipts. Out of the IVA, the top three visitor source markets for the country comprised China, India and Indonesia.

Singapore had leveraged its strong diplomatic ties to establish multiple vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) with other countries that the government deemed safe to visit. Fully vaccinated passengers from VTL-approved countries are allowed to enter Singapore without quarantine, and vice versa. This paved the way for a two-way boost in tourism for Singapore and the country in question.

Simultaneously, the Lion City also pivoted to domestic tourism, spurred on by a campaign that involved the distribution of monetary vouchers. At the end of the campaign on 31 December 2021, S$180 million (US$130 million) in vouchers and S$120 million (US$88 million) in out-of-pocket payments were recorded.

Thanks to the combined grit and creative efforts of all industry players within Singapore, from hotels to cruise lines, and integrated resorts to event organisers, STB noted that Singapore's tourism sector remains resilient to the challenges.

Keith Tan, chief executive of STB believes Singapore is “poised to recapture demand when [tourism] returns".
Keith Tan, chief executive of STB believes Singapore is “poised to recapture demand when [tourism] returns".

Speaking at STB’s Year in Review 2021 press conference held on 25 January, Keith Tan, chief executive of STB acknowledges that the path towards a full recovery may be a long journey. However, he believes that the commitment and efforts that Singapore’s tourism partners have invested towards innovating “will strengthen Singapore’s appeal as we prepare to welcome more international visitors”.

Tan was referring to multiple initiatives in the pipeline to further drive international visitors for VTL-approved lanes including the launch of multi-country marketing campaigns; partnerships with online travel agents (OTA); deepening overseas trade engagements; collaborating with other destinations; unveiling new and enhanced experiences and attractions; and upskilling the local tourism sector by instilling industry-specific skills and encouraging digital transformation.

On the MICE front, STB expects a steady and consistent pick-up to follow from 2021’s progress made in hosting more than 200 events with almost 50,000 local and international attendees.

For 2022, leading the calendar are high-profile events such as Singapore Airshow, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit Singapore, and Tax Free World Association Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference.

Nonetheless, the tourism body understands that with the volatility and unpredictability of the Covid-19 situation, recovery should not be expected to proceed in a linear manner, Tan said.

Instead, he urged the industry to take the rough with the smooth, and to prepare for obstacles, as there “will be developments that will cause accelerations, and also decelerations, but hopefully no complete stops to the pace of border reopenings and the recovery of international travel”.

“We must anticipate setbacks and challenges even as the tourism industry recovers slowly,” Tan added. “But I am confident that the tourism industry has learnt from its experiences, and is poised to recapture demand when it returns.”

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