Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Tourist arrivals expected to drop by 25 to 30% in 2020 due to novel coronavirus: STB

SINGAPORE — With the ban on travellers who had been to China recently, imposed because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) expects visitor arrivals for 2020 to fall by about 25 to 30 per cent.

STB also expects knock-on effects, where visitor arrivals from other key source markets are also expected to fall due to lower travel confidence globally.

STB also expects knock-on effects, where visitor arrivals from other key source markets are also expected to fall due to lower travel confidence globally.

SINGAPORE — With the ban on travellers who had been to China recently, imposed because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) expects visitor arrivals for 2020 to fall by about 25 to 30 per cent. 

And it is not just due to the drop in Chinese travellers, which accounts for 20 per cent of international visitors — the top source market for the city-state.

STB also expects knock-on effects, where visitor arrivals from other key source markets are expected to fall due to lower travel confidence globally, said the tourism board in a press statement on Tuesday (Feb 11). 

Seperately, STB chief executive Keith Tan said at an annual tourism conference: “We believe the situation this year will be at least as severe as Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and probably worse.”

Mr Tan said that every day, Singapore loses an average of 18,000 to 20,000 international visitor arrivals and this figure could “very well increase”. 

The predicted drop in visitor arrivals could also change depending on how long the situation in China lasts, how long the situation in Singapore and other countries in the region lasts and also how long it will take for traveller demand to return, he added. 

“I have no doubt that travel demand will return. There will be a bounce back. But now the question is how fast, how soon it will return,” Mr Tan said.

When Sars hit Singapore in early 2003, it caused a 19 per cent drop in tourist arrivals, lower than current estimates as Chinese tourists made up only about 9 per cent of all tourist arrivals then, much lower than the 20 per cent now.

The tourism sector took between seven and eight months after the World Health Organization declared the country Sars-free in May 2003 to stage a recovery.

“That was a V-shaped recovery. This time round, I’m not counting on a V-shape recovery. We are prepared for all contingencies,” said Mr Tan during a question-and-answer session with the media. In a V-shaped recovery, the rebound is unimpeded, whereas some other types of recovery include gains, followed by setbacks then further gains.

There could be a longer tail effect from the novel coronavirus outbreak compared with Sars due to two main reasons, said Mr Tan.

First, the effect of social media may cause travel sentiment to be dampened for longer.

Second, there may be an impact on regional supply chains if China’s factories remain closed or are operating at lower output levels for a prolonged period, an issue that was not significant during Sars.

The impact on supply chains will weaken economic growth, which could in turn have an effect on travel demand as people would generally have less to spend.

“Hence we are preparing for longer, slower recovery than Sars,” said Mr Tan.

The novel coronavirus outbreak originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan but has now spread to 28 other countries, including Singapore where health authorities have confirmed 45 cases as of Monday. 

Globally, over 40,000 people have been infected with the virus and over 900 have died, most of them Chinese nationals. 

In response to the escalating outbreak, authorities here have banned people who have travelled recently to China from coming into Singapore, which includes thousands of Chinese tourists. 

However, Mr Tan said that Singapore’s tourism portfolio is diverse, and that the city-state is not overly reliant on China tourists.

As for Singapore residents returning from China, they are required to undertake a mandatory 14-day leave of absence. 

Tour agencies and retailers have previously told TODAY that business has dropped significantly, with some outlets in tourist destinations reporting a drop of up to 60 per cent in sales.

However, STB on Tuesday said the tourism sector is aiming for a "strong" recovery on the back of four years of consecutive growth and a pipeline of tourism investments. 

For 2019, visitor arrivals rose 3.3 per cent to reach 19.1 million visitors. These visitors spent a total of S$27.1 billion, a marginal growth of 0.5 per cent, said STB in its statement. 

To deal with the effects of the virus outbreak, the Government will form a Tourism Recovery Action Task Force comprising members from the public and private sectors with the objective of mapping out recovery strategies and plans for tourism in Singapore.

“Their work will include identifying opportunities arising from the (novel coronavirus) crisis, driving and implementing measures to instil confidence in Singapore’s tourism establishments, as well as co-creating and initiating recovery plans,” read the statement. 

STB had earlier unveiled measures to waive license fees for hotels, travel agents and tourist guides, and to defray cleaning costs for hotels with suspected and confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. 

Additional support measures will be announced at the Budget on Feb 18.

IMPACT ON TOURISM

While it has not even been a month since the novel coronavirus officially arrived in the city-state, industry representatives from the tourism sector, who were also present at Tuesday’s conference, said that they are already seeing a decline in business.

Mr Quek Swee Kuan, chief executive of Sentosa Development Corporation, said that businesses and visitor arrivals on Sentosa have gone down between 20 and 50 per cent.

To encourage more people — both locals and tourists — to head to the island, SDC is lifting admission fees into the island from March 14 to 22, which corresponds with the school holidays here.

Dr Kevin Cheong, executive committee member of Association of Singapore Attractions said that tourist-dependent attractions have seen business fall by close to 60 per cent.

When asked whether there have been closures or retrenchments, industry representatives said this has not happened yet.

The hotel sector did not retrench any staff during the Sars crisis in 2003, said Ms Kwee Wei-Lin, President of the Singapore Hotel Association.

She added that the association’s members would use the current downtime to retrain staff and complete repairs or renovation projects that they couldn’t do when occupancy levels were over 90 per cent.

Travel agencies have already embarked on cost-cutting measures, such as implementing a four-day work week, said Mr Charles Tan, secretary-general of the National Association of Travel Agents.

 

 

Related topics

Wuhan virus novel coronavirus coronavirus tourism Singapore Tourism Board tourist

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.