SINGAPORE: The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is projecting a 25% to 30% drop in visitor arrivals this year, as the deadly coronavirus that has killed more than 1,000 and infected more than 42,000 worldwide continues its global spread.
This estimation is steeper than the 19% decline in 2003, when Singapore endured the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak.
“We believe that the situation this year will be at least as severe as SARS, and probably worse, ” STB chief executive Keith Tan said at its annual year-in-review yesterday.
“At this point, we estimate that every day, we lose an average of 18,000 to 20,000 international visitor arrivals to Singapore, ” he added.
The estimate will change depending on three main factors, Tan said. They are: how long the outbreak in China will last and whether it has economic knock-on effects on the region; how long the situation in Singapore – and other countries in the region – will last; and how long it will take for traveller demand to return.
The latest projection comes on the back of yet another year of record highs in tourist arrivals and spending in 2019. But with the largest source market of China drying up, the four-year streak is set to end.
Total arrivals in 2019 rose 3.3% to 19.1 million, while tourism receipts inched up 0.5% to S$27.1bil (RM81bil), according to preliminary estimates released by the STB.
But it said in a statement yesterday that the tourism sector, which includes hospitality, attractions, retail, and food and beverage, will take “a significant hit” in 2020.
Arrival numbers have already started to tumble, the STB said, as Chinese tourists account for one in five visitors to the Republic. Recent travel restrictions – including a ban on outbound tour groups from China and Singapore’s curb on arrivals from the mainland – have battered businesses that rely on them, with some reporting a drop in sales of up to half.
The restrictions are aimed at limiting the spread of the virus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Visitor arrivals from other key source markets are also expected to fall this year due to lower global travel confidence, the STB said.
Singapore now has 45 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the highest number for a country outside of China.
A number of overseas cases have also been linked to a business meeting held at the Grand Hyatt Singapore in January.
Last Friday, the Republic’s disease outbreak response went up a notch to orange after locally transmitted cases were established.
Measures such as limiting large scale events have since been put in place. — The Straits Times/ANN
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