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Visitor arrivals in Singapore hit a record low of 330,000 in 2021 amid Covid-19 travel restrictions

SINGAPORE — Visitor arrivals to Singapore hit a historic low last year amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) chief executive Keith Tan said the tourism sector should not be expected to recover in a “predictable and linear fashion”.

Visitor arrivals in Singapore hit a record low of 330,000 in 2021 amid Covid-19 travel restrictions
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  • The total visitor arrivals in 2021 stood at 330,000 due to travel restrictions and border closures
  • Correspondingly, preliminary estimates of tourism receipts amounted to S$1.9 billion
  • STB said 2021's figures represent just a fraction of Singapore’s tourism performance before the pandemic
  • STB CEO Keith Tan said the Covid-19 situation remains volatile, making it difficult to cast projections on tourism performance for 2022

SINGAPORE — Visitor arrivals to Singapore hit a historic low last year amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the tourism sector should be not be expected to recover in a "predictable and linear fashion" the chief executive officer of Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said on Tuesday (Jan 25).

Taking stock of the country's tourism performance at its annual review, STB said that total visitor arrivals stood at 330,000 and preliminary estimates of tourism receipts amounted to S$1.9 billion last year, due to travel restrictions and border closures.

This was a dip from 2.7 million visitor arrivals and S$4.8 billion tourism receipts in 2020, driven largely by the strong tourism performance in the first two months of the year, just before the Covid-19 pandemic started.

STB said that visitors from Singapore's traditionally strong markets — China, India and Indonesia — made up more than half of visitor arrivals last year.

They also contributed to about a third, or S$617 million, in tourism receipts between January and September last year. This amount takes into account retail spending, accommodation and food-and-beverage spending but does not include sightseeing, entertainment and gaming.

While last year’s figures represent only a fraction of Singapore’s tourism performance before the pandemic, STB said that there have been “encouraging signs of recovery” in the tourism sector.

This was brought by the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) arrangements with various countries that spurred the return of international travellers from these places from September 2021.

Domestic tourism has also been strong, especially after the introduction of initiatives such as the SingapoRediscovers vouchers scheme where each Singapore resident was given S$100 to spend on tours, attractions or stays here.

In an earlier media release, STB said that about 1.9 million Singaporeans have used their SingapoRediscovers vouchers at least once, amounting close to S$300 million in transactions as of Dec 31 last year. 

STB's CEO Keith Tan said, however, that as the Covid-19 situation remains volatile, it is difficult to forecast tourism performance.

“We will not make any projections because we don't have confidence in the ability to predict since many markets are still uncertain. The situation is very uncertain," Mr Tan said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“We should not expect tourism to recover in a predictable and linear fashion and we must be prepared for further surprises, good or bad. There will be developments that will cause accelerations, hopefully, and decelerations.

"And hopefully, no complete stops to the pace of border reopening and recovery of international travel.” 

STRONG PERFORMANCE FROM TOURS, CRUISES

While the tourism sector remained muted overall last year, there were some bright spots in the form of domestic tours and cruises, STB said.

The tours industry saw close to 320,000 domestic participants and strong month-on-month growth for most of the year. 

Several tours were also created last year, such as a tour of Kampong Lorong Buangkok, Singapore’s last surviving village and a series of sustainability and heritage-themed tours in Sentosa. 

The cruise industry also “rebounded strongly”, with more than 400,000 domestic passengers setting sail on close to 300 sailings in 2021, STB said.

Notably, there have been no Covid-19 clusters on board the two cruise ships to date, it added.

Mr Tan said that Singapore is in a much stronger position than it was a year ago and “is able to make some very decisive moves” to reopen safely.

“We have been learning along the way. If we compare the construct of the VTLs now with when we started them last year, you’ll notice that they’ve become a lot easier, a lot simpler as well, making the overall travel experience less stressful, and this is a promising start,” he added.

“I believe we are also in a much better position compared to a year ago because our tourism sector has become a lot more creative, resilient, and it is well-positioned to capture the pent-up demand from international travellers.

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tourism attractions hotels Singapore Tourism Board tours cruises

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