Mice Affairs Media, News Bureau, 02 Feb 2021
Despite enduring its toughest year on record, Singapore’s tourism sector has taken strides to reimagine its offerings and experiences, while supporting nationwide efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism-related companies have benefited from various government support measures to transform their products and offerings while building new capabilities to position themselves for future growth opportunities.
Mr Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said: “Singapore’s tourism sector has had to fight for survival in 2020. Our tourism businesses have displayed immense resilience and adaptability throughout this difficult period, reinventing their business models and leveraging technology to find solutions in a COVID-19 world. I am also grateful for their commitment to keep Singaporeans safe and well. STB remains confident in Singapore’s position as one of the world’s safest and most attractive leisure and business destination, and the long-term prospects of Singapore’s tourism sector. While mass international travel is unlikely to resume in a major way in 2021, STB will continue standing together with our industry partners to prepare for recovery and to start building a better and more sustainable future for tourism.”
Contributing to COVID-19 efforts amid adversity
Due to unprecedented global travel restrictions and border closures, Singapore saw a decline in both visitor arrivals and tourism receipts in 2020. Visitor arrivals (VA) fell by 85.7 percent in 2020 to reach 2.7 million visitors (nearly all from the first two months of 2020), while tourism receipts (TR) declined by 78.4 percent to S$4.4 billion in the first three quarters of 2020.
Even during this difficult year, tourism businesses played a key role in Singapore’s battle against COVID-19. Hotels offered their properties for various accommodation purposes, including Government Quarantine Facilities, Swab Isolation Facilities and Stay-Home Notice Dedicated Facilities (SDFs). For example, more than 70 hotels have served as SDFs at various points in since March 2020. As of 31 December 2020, SDFs have accommodated more than 80,000 Persons on Stay-Home Notice, with the support of over 2,300 frontline workers in the hotel industry.
The Integrated Resorts also contributed in other ways. More than 2,000 Resorts World Sentosa staff served at the Community Care Facility at Singapore EXPO and MAX Atria, and the Big Box warehouse mall. They managed operations, provided meals and packed care kits. Marina Bay Sands donated around 15,000kg of food to The Food Bank and packed 15,000 care kits for migrant workers and low-income families affected by the pandemic.
To help contain the outbreak in migrant worker dormitories earlier last year, the cruise industry provided the world’s first migrant worker dormitory on cruise ships as accommodation for more than 8,200 workers who had recovered from COVID-19. Around 600 cruise industry workers and business partners including Genting Cruise Lines and SATS-Creuers Cruise Services were involved in the operation between April 2020 and September 2020.
Many tourist guides stepped up as Safe Distancing Ambassadors (SDAs), capitalising on their people and language skills to urge compliance to safe management measures (SMMs). Since 7 April 2020, about 150 tourist guides have served in this capacity at tourism precincts, hotels and other tourism establishments. In the coming months, STB expects to grow this group to over 250 SDAs as activities such as business and leisure events gradually resume in Singapore.
Re-opening tourism safely
As Singapore’s economy gradually re-opened in the second half of 2020, the tourism sector faced a new challenge: working out how to resume operations safely while providing meaningful customer experiences. STB engaged industry stakeholders to develop their re-opening proposals and implement the necessary SMMs. As of 25 January 2021, 45 attractions, 270 hotels, and 1,686 tour itineraries have received approval to resume operations.
From November 2020, Singapore also piloted cruises with enhanced safety protocols and no ports of call for two of Singapore’s homeported cruise lines – Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International. To rebuild consumer confidence and demand for the cruise, STB established the world’s first CruiseSafe Certification – a mandatory audit and certification programme for cruise lines before they commence sailing. As of 31 December 2020, 33 cruises carrying over 42,000 passengers have been completed with no reported incidents of COVID-19 transmission on board.
Many tourism establishments have also been certified SG Clean, a national mark of excellence that indicates our businesses adhere to high standards of environmental public hygiene on their premises. As of 25 January 2021, STB has issued more than 1,390 SG Clean Quality Mark certificates to tourism-related premises.
Resuming MICE and leisure events
From 1 October 2020, STB began accepting applications for organisers to pilot MICE events of up to 250 attendees. As of 31 December 2020, Singapore has held 29 MICE event pilots, with the first being the Singapore International Energy Week in end of October 2020.
Singapore also developed testing protocols for foreign delegates and other visitors arriving for events such as TravelRevive and the ONE Championship events, to safeguard public health. MICE and leisure event organisers also had to adapt, innovate and leverage on technology to reimagine what events would look like in a COVID-19 environment. As a result, a number of lifestyle and sporting events adopted hybrid formats for the first time, from the Singapore Food Festival to the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2020.
Stimulating demand for tourism
With international travel at a standstill, domestic demand became critical to support tourism businesses. In July 2020, STB, Enterprise Singapore and Sentosa Development Corporation rolled out the SingapoRediscovers campaign to rally locals to support tourism businesses and promote hidden gems and experiences in Singapore. As of 31 December 2020, there were 1,145 promotions offered by 213 merchants.
To complement the SingapoRediscovers campaign, STB launched the S$320 million SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) scheme in December 2020. As of 1 January 2021, over 300,000 Singaporeans had used the SRV scheme to make bookings with Singapore hotels, attractions and tours, spending S$35.9 million in SRV redemptions and out-of-pocket payments.
STB also forged new partnerships with e-commerce players, banks, payment gateways and online travel agents (OTAs), including Visa, DBS, Expedia, Klook, Airbnb Experiences and Mastercard, to promote Singapore tourism offerings, exchange insights and enhance visitor experiences.
To ensure that Singapore remains top of mind even while travel is curtailed, STB’s regional offices launched new initiatives to engage our fans and strengthen Singapore’s brand image around the world. STB partnered with technology, media and tourism industry players in key source markets to jointly promote Singapore as an attractive destination for future travellers.
Supporting industry transformation
Since the start of the outbreak, STB has worked closely with industry partners to chart a new path for the tourism sector. In February 2020, the Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC), comprising tourism leaders from both the private and public sectors, was set up to develop and implement joint recovery strategies. TRAC helped to identify opportunities arising from COVID-19, driving and implementing measures to co-create recovery plans and instil confidence in Singapore’s tourism sector.
The Alliance for Action on Enabling Safe and Innovative Visitor Experiences under the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST) was formed to explore and pioneer new ways to facilitate safe and innovative visitor experiences in a COVID-19 environment. Co-led by Mr Lee Seow Hiang of Changi Airport Group and Ms Kwee Wei-Lin of Singapore Hotel Association, the Alliance comprises industry stakeholders and government agencies. It developed its first prototype for safe tradeshows and exhibitions, safe itineraries, as well as digital enablers, which was trialed in November 2020 at TravelRevive. In addition, the Alliance also successfully launched COVID-19 insurance coverage to provide added peace of mind for visitors to Singapore.
Our MICE businesses also took the lead in transforming their own sector. To guide the industry in developing innovative hybrid business models and pathways for new capabilities, the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) collaborated with STB and Enterprise Singapore to launch the Event Industry Resilience Roadmap. This established best-in-class standard for safe business events comes with an industry-led accreditation SG SafeEvent programme that has certified over 200 SG SafeEvent ambassadors.
STB and the Singapore Hotel Association supported the hotels industry’s efforts in upskilling their workers. Compared to 2019, the number of trainees funded under the Training Industry Professionals in Tourism (TIP-iT) scheme more than doubled in 2020. This is a testament to our tourism businesses’ commitment to upskilling employees to future-proof their workforce. To alleviate manpower challenges and provide job expansion opportunities, the hotels industry, including Grand Hyatt Singapore, PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road and Raffles Hotel, implemented job redesign initiatives to train existing employees in new skills that allowed them to be redeployed to other areas outside of their specialisations.
To accelerate recovery and rebuild for the future, STB unveiled a series of programmes and partnerships in 2020.
In April, a S$20 million Marketing Partnership Programme (MPP) was launched to support marketing efforts by tourism businesses to build demand, alongside the Singapore Stories Content Fund (SGSCF) to encourage content creators to create compelling stories about Singapore. To date, 260 tourism businesses have benefited from the MPP and 20 projects have received funding from the SGSCF.
With support from STB’s various initiatives and grants such as the Business Improvement Fund (BIF) and the TIP-iT scheme, tourism businesses were able to innovate and adapt. STB also developed tools to further accelerate the pace of industry transformation, including the Tourism Transformation Index (TXI), and the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (Stan). To build new digital capabilities, STB partnered digital players such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Airbnb Experiences and Amazon Explore to conduct online Masterclasses or workshops for the tourism industry.
Tourism workers and businesses have benefited from economic-wide measures to support jobs and livelihoods impacted by COVID-19. These include rental waivers, property tax rebates and temporary bridging loans. In 2020, over 7,000 tourism businesses received support through the Job Support Scheme (JSS) to retain local employees.
STB also provided support to defray third-party professional cleaning costs by tourism-related establishments impacted by COVID-19 cases. As of 31 December 2020, 57 grant applications had been approved.
Even with the development of several vaccines, it will take time for mass leisure travel and traveller confidence to return. Therefore, we expect tourism arrivals and tourism receipts to remain weak in 2021.
In 2021, STB will continue to support quality tourism businesses to sustain key capabilities and build new ones, and to innovate in order to meet evolving consumer needs and emerging travel trends once cross-border travel resumes in a significant way.
STB will also continue to support local jobs and create opportunities for the industry to thrive in the new environment by encouraging domestic advocacy and building domestic demand.
Global MICE Media network