Singapore

Domestic tourism campaign offers hope, say operators

Visiting the Philippines is a yearly tradition for Mrs Archaenne Chuang, whose extended family lives in Manila.

So it was especially disappointing not to be able to make the trip last month, after giving birth to her firstborn in March.

"I was looking forward to taking our daughter home for a family reunion, and to tour the Boracay islands since my husband has never been there," said Mrs Chuang, 26, a housewife.

With overseas travel this year looking unlikely, she is among a number of Singapore residents considering staycations instead.

A nine-month campaign was launched yesterday to encourage locals like the Chuang family to channel some of their unused travel budget towards local businesses, many of which are struggling to survive amid the downturn and tourist ban.

Tourism businesses and industry observers agreed that the campaign is a lifeline for local firms, but said it may not be enough to sustain many if travel restrictions do not ease soon.

CAN'T BREAK EVEN

Mr David Lim, who manages three leisure attractions - trampoline park Bounce Singapore, virtual reality arcade Zero Latency and treetop obstacle course Forest Adventure - said the capacity limit of 25 per cent is not enough for his business to break even, despite promising visitor numbers.

"As a business operator, it's always painful to turn people away," said Mr Lim, who noted that running discounts and promotions are also a challenge given this limitation.

Mr Wong Soon-Hwa, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association's Singapore Chapter, said there is cause for optimism, even if domestic spending is not enough to sustain businesses in the long run.

"As long as people get out there and do it safely, it counts," he said.

"It's important to give businesses some hope." - THE STRAITS TIMES

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TOURISM & TRAVEL