Singapore is gearing up to address the anticipated shortfall in tourist receipts, thanks to the on-going coronavirus outbreak.

The country’s tourism sector will take a “significant hit”, with visitor arrivals estimated to fall by 25-30% this year due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, especially from China, which accounts for about 20% of international visitor arrivals, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Singapore is losing an average of 18,000 to 20,000 international visitors per day and most of the lost visitor arrivals are Chinese due to travel restrictions on both sides, STB chief executive Keith Tan told media at its annual year-in-review on 11 Feb.

“Visitor arrivals from STB’s other key source markets are also expected to fall due to lower travel confidence globally,” he added. “The situation in 2020 will be at least as severe as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and probably worse.

Arrivals fell 19% during the 2003 SARS crisis but had a V-shaped recovery, rising year on year about eight months after the World Health Organization declared Singapore SARS-free.

“This time around, I’m not counting on a V-shaped recovery,” Tan told media. “We believe that the situation this year will be at least as severe as the situation we faced in 2003 during SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), probably worse.”

Adding that Singapore is more reliant on China for tourism now compared to when the SARS outbreak hit in 2003, Tan noted that China accounted for just 9% of visitor arrivals that year. 

There were about 3.6 million visitors from China in 2019. Compared to 2018, there was a 12% increase in visitors from Tier 2 Chinese cities like Jinan, Ningbo and Xiamen.

China was also Singapore’s top revenue market in the first three quarters of 2019, accounting for S$3.2 billion (US$2.3 billion) in tourism receipts, excluding the sightseeing, gaming and entertainment segments, up by 2% from 2018.

In response and anticipation of a rebound, the government will form a public-private sector Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC) to lay out the plans for recovery and future growth.

The task force will comprise tourism leaders from the public and private sectors, and it will work to identify opportunities arising from the coronavirus outbreak, boost confidence in Singapore’s tourism spots and create recovery plans.

STB is confident that after four years of consecutive growth, the sector is set up for a strong recovery. “Our destination remains attractive, we have a strong pipeline of tourism products, and our market portfolio is diverse,” said Tan.

The statutory board had announced on Feb 2 that licence fees for hotels, travel agents and tour guides would be waived to help Singapore’s tourism sector, which has been “directly affected” by the coronavirus outbreak.

STB will also defray the cleaning costs of hotels that provided accommodation to the confirmed and suspected cases of the coronavirus. Full details of the overall package of relief measures will be announced at Budget 2020 on Feb 18.

Sourced from Channel News Asia, Business Times, TTG Asia