SARS took a big chunk out of Singapore’s travel industry last year: More than S$2bil (RM4.2bil) lost in tourism spending and a sharp 19% drop in visitor arrivals, but the final numbers for 2003 were better than expected.
There were 6.1 million visitors to Singapore last year, and they spent almost S$7bil (RM14.7bil) – beating the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) worst-case scenario of a 30% drop in arrivals.
That bit of heartening news has led the STB to aim even higher this year: It wants to draw 7.6 million visitors – a 24% jump over last year’s figures.
It might seem like a big jump, but the STB is confident it will meet the target, despite the looming threat of bird flu in the region.
The board hopes that more visitors will also mean more cash in the tourism till, to the tune of S$8.5bil (RM17.8bil).
The board’s chief executive, Lim Neo Chian, recently said: “Barring any major incident ... there is a reasonable chance that we can achieve it.”
Trade and Industry Minister George Yeo also expressed confidence that the bird-flu outbreak in the region would not be a major factor.
He said: “If we are careful here in Singapore, I don’t think the problem will be anything like what we experienced last year with SARS.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network