SINGAPORE, April 23 (Th Straits Times/ANN): Tourism to the Republic could be looking at a strong recovery this year, with several industry players already seeing a big spike in holidaymakers coming here in recent weeks.
This was even before the announcement last Friday (April 22) on the end of Covid-19 pre-departure tests for fully-vaccinated visitors entering Singapore from Tuesday (April 26).
With these changes, tourism players and experts here are anticipating a further boost to arrivals.
Founder and director of Nam Ho DMC, Mahesh Pawanaskar, said the firm, which serves the Indian market, handled about 150 visitors in March, with the number spiking to 700 in April.
“For May, we can surely expect strong growth, at least double of what we are seeing in April,” he added.
The requirement for a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or antigen rapid test (ART) for air and sea travellers entering Singapore can be troublesome for families travelling in a group, and can also add to their costs, he added.
Chief operating officer of business-to-business travel agency GlobalTix Chan Chee Kong said the removal of the testing requirement is a massive boost for leisure travel, which had been lagging behind other segments like business travel since Singapore reopened its borders.
The lifting of other measures, such as limits on group size, will also add to ease of travel for tourists. Regional neighbours such as Thailand and Indonesia have also relaxed their travel policies, which altogether will draw more people to the region and contribute to Singapore’s tourism growth, he added.
Singapore saw about 57,000 visitor arrivals in January and about 68,000 in February. In March, the number jumped to about 120,000. However, this is just a fraction of the 1.6 million visitors Singapore welcomed in March 2019.
In the first three months of 2022, the top three markets were India, Indonesia and Malaysia, with India accounting for about 55,000 visitors.
Visitor arrivals could very well double in the next few months, said managing director of international tourism consultancy MasterConsult Services, Mr Christopher Khoo.
Tourism consultant Dr Barkathunnisha, the founder of Elevated Consultancy and Training, said industry experts are expecting travel to resume to pre-Covid-19 levels in 2023 or later.
She believes recovery will be progressive and definite, with the latest round of easing likely to unlock already pent-up demand for travel. Recovery will be bolstered by tourism marketing efforts, more destinations opening up, and immigration procedures becoming more transparent, among others.
However, she noted: “While we remain optimistic, we are still cautious that the tourism recovery could face several headwinds which will directly or indirectly disincentivise travel.”
For example, the shortage of labour in the industry has resulted in disrupted flight schedules. Some airlines and hotels, like those in other countries, are showing signs of strain and struggling to cope with surging demand, which can reduce customer experience.
Markets such as China and Japan are also not yet open to travel, while fear of the new variant may prevent those who are risk-averse from travelling, she said.
In the meantime, other parts of the tourism sector, such as hotels and attractions, are also starting to see spillover effects from the growing momentum in visitor arrivals.
Reservations have increased at hotels since the vaccinated travel framework (VTF) started on April 1, allowing all vaccinated travellers to enter Singapore instead of having to take only designated flights.
Singapore, meanwhile, reported 2,709 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, bringing the total tally to 1,180,124.
Of the new cases, 325 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 2,384 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.
Among the PCR cases, 313 were local transmissions and 12 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 2,317 local transmissions and 67 imported cases, respectively.
A total of 282 cases are currently warded in hospitals, with nine cases in intensive care units.
One more patient has died from complications due to Covid-19 infection, bringing the death toll to 1,325, the ministry said. – The Straits Times/ANN