Singapore

Visitor arrivals in March lowest since 2003 Sars outbreak

The number of visitors to Singapore plummeted to about 240,000 last month, the lowest since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003.

The number of arrivals last month represents an 85 per cent year-on-year drop, according to figures published by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network website.

The last fall of this magnitude was during the peak of the Sars outbreak here in April and May 2003, when Singapore received 217,000 visitors and 191,000 visitors respectively.

Figures for last month show that Indonesia was the top source of visitors with about 46,500 arrivals, followed by the United Kingdom with 20,600 and Australia with 18,700.

Arrivals from Singapore's traditional top source market, China, were a dismal 1,500 amid travel restrictions on its citizens.

About 2.7 million tourists arrived in Singapore from January to last month, a 43 per cent decrease compared with the same period last year.

Mr Poh Chi Chuan, STB's executive director for digital transformation, told The Straits Times last month's decline was expected, given Singapore's various entry restrictions, including a ban on short-term visitors from March 24.

"We expect this downtrend to continue in light of the global Covid-19 spread," he said.

The tourism industry has been among the hardest hit by the outbreak, with travel now at a halt and attractions and entertainment venues forced to close during the circuit breaker period, which has been extended to June 1.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing noted the deep impact the pandemic has had on the industry in a Facebook post yesterday.

He said he participated in a special video conference meeting of Asean tourism ministers earlier in the day to discuss tackling the pandemic collectively and decisively.

Recovery will require more than just tourism industry help schemes, he said, adding that Singapore had shared the need to work together on three issues during the meeting.

The first is elevating and harmonising health and hygiene standards for the tourism sector to boost confidence in the region.

"Secondly, as we jointly promote South-east Asia as a regional destination and draw strength from our connectivity, we must also be aware that any weak link amongst us will affect the perceptions on all of us collectively. We must maintain the connectivity of our air, land and sea links and preserve the landing rights with respective members."

Asean member countries should also build up their technological capabilities and common infrastructure in areas such as contact tracing and adoption of digital systems to facilitate travel, Mr Chan added.

TOURISM & TRAVEL