Tourism business on the road to recovery

AT THE height of the SARS crisis, Excel Travel Services laid off four employees after business fell by 80%. 

The agency had since cut a deal to move from its previous offices to lower its rent, and was ready to hire again as the travel industry turn-around was slowly picking up steam. 

“We have to ready ourselves to meet the demand,” said Excel managing director Pen Villanueva. 

Big players like SA (UIC) Tours, which asked 150 employees to clear their annual leave and put a temporary stop to advertising during the crisis, will recall all staff next month and had already resumed advertising its packages. 

All the signs are pointing to the tourism industry fully recovering by early next year. 

GOOD SIGN: Customers at SA (UIC)Tours' office in People's Park Complex in Singapore Saturday. Travel agents here said that business on tours to China and Hong Kong were improving.

Another good sign – the Chinese government’s move to do away with visa requirements for short-stay visitors from Singapore starting next month. In April, just 9,293 Singaporeans visited the country, compared to the 36,440 who did so in March. 

Travel agents were counting on regulars like accounts director Susan Chin, 49, who said she saw the WHO decision as a green light to make a shopping trip to Hong Kong next month. 

Tourists to Singapore got the same signal when the WHO took it off the list of SARS-hit areas on May 30. 

Based on tourist arrival figures for the first two weeks of this month, the Singapore Tourism Board estimated on Friday that 263,200 visitors would arrive for the whole of this month, an increase of 47% over last month’s figure. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network  

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