Singapore is appealing to its travel-hungry residents to support a battered hospitality sector in a bid to limit job losses in the short term, ahead of tourism resuming with higher-quality travelers, considering most nations are re-starting business travel first, according to the country's Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.
“It will be a quality and not a quantity game,” Chan said at a briefing last week.
More than 19 million tourists flocked to the city-state last year, spending almost $28 billion, with a further $27 billion in national tourism receipts generated by Singaporeans.
Staycations for locals
Singapore is launching a $45 million domestic travel campaign called SingapoRediscovers, its biggest ever to spur local spending, the Singapore Tourism Board said Wednesday. The campaign includes staycations and dining offers, as well as curated tour packages over a nine-month period.
“We do not expect domestic consumption to fill the hole left by the diminution of international travel,” Singapore Tourism Board CEO Keith Tan said.
“What we hope to do is to buy as much time for as many businesses as possible to survive until a vaccine is found or when international travel resumes.”
The island’s latest campaign, in a similar vein to Step Out Singapore after SARS in 2003, is much smaller than those in countries like Thailand and Japan. It also eschews direct subsidies for trips that other nations have adopted.
While Tan didn’t rule out such an approach, he said the campaign should be seen in the context of the government’s four previous stimulus packages, which amount to almost S$100 billion.
Singapore is hoping to avoid major job losses after its borders closed to foreign tourists in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Travel-related sectors, which contribute about 4% of Singapore’s gross domestic product, have exerted the “largest drag on economic growth,” the central bank said last week. Already, one of Singapore’s largest hospitality employers, Resorts World Sentosa, has cut jobs.
Safety first for visitors
New daily virus cases in Singapore are still in the triple digits, although the numbers have come down and the majority are in foreign-worker dormitories. A resurgence of infections in places like Hong Kong and Australia have dimmed hopes of international tourists returning any time soon.
A survey conducted in June found that close to 70% of respondents listed safety as a priority when considering a local holiday.
Around 80 hotels have been allowed to offer staycation packages, although over half of Singapore’s 67,000 hotel rooms are currently being used for Covid-19 quarantine purposes.
The nation has already begun trialling a 'fast lane' for business travellers which removes the need to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in the city-state. This is seen as a potential precursor for carefully reopening international trade and travel, ahead of measures such as the proposed 'green lane' to countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
A green lane between Singapore and Malaysia for long-term pass holders whio make the daily commute, and travellers on essential or official business, will open from August 10, although "even with a daily commuting model, there'll be a need for ... mass-scale testing on both sides of the Causeway," says Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
Additional reporting by David Flynn
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