Singapore

Groups of 10 allowed for local tours

Walking, cycling and kayaking tours can accommodate double the previous limit of participants; tours can run up to eight hours

Jaunts to Singapore's Southern Islands and virtual tours for overseas viewers are among the offerings local tour operators have in the works to survive the tourist drought.

The operators were given some relief yesterday when the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced that walking, cycling and kayaking tours may now accommodate up to 10 participants, double the previous limit.

As five remains the current limit for public gatherings, groups that exceed this must be split into two, with no intermingling allowed, according to updated guidelines for tour operators.

Tours may also now run for a maximum of eight hours, up from two previously.

These allowances come amid a newly launched campaign to encourage locals to prop up tourism businesses, as well as low numbers of Covid-19 community cases.

The STB told The Straits Times that it has received 47 applications so far, of which 36 have obtained approval to go ahead with their submitted tour itineraries and schedules.

"While the updated guidelines allow for increased group size and longer tours, tour operators must still comply with all prevailing safe management measures," the STB said.

The STB, together with Enterprise Singapore and Sentosa Development Corporation, launched a $45-million campaign last week to drive local spending at eateries, shops and leisure attractions, which have been hit hard.

Tour operators that The Straits Times spoke to said they have seen a healthy number of bookings over the last two weeks, though not enough to turn a profit.

Mr Stanley Foo, co-founder of Oriental Travel and Tours, said the firm is focusing on its Creepy Tales of Singapore night tour for now as it had proven popular among locals even before the pandemic hit.

The operator is also developing other offerings for the local market, such as trips to Pulau Ubin and the Southern Islands.

While he expects at least 40 to 50 local bookings this month - twice the usual number - that is not enough to sustain business in the long term, he said.

CREATING JOBS

"Right now, it's just about hanging in there and creating jobs for our guides and transport operators rather than making money."

Mr Suen Tat Yam, founder of Monster Day Tours, said he has received about eight bookings for the coming long weekend.

The firm's walking tours of precincts like Little India and Kampong Glam have been branded as SG55 tours, in line with the local focus and National Day celebrations.

The company has also recently launched virtual tours.

"Virtual tours have the advantage of being able to reach out to people overseas, and corporate events are all on hold," Mr Suen noted.

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