Singapore arrivals more than triple month-on-month to 6,840 visitors in July

SINGAPORE'S international arrivals more than tripled in July from the month before, driven by a month-on-month surge in visitors from South-east Asia and the Greater China region.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, roughly 6,840 visitors touched down in July, up from about 2,170 in June, according to fresh data from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Still, arrivals were down by 99.6 per cent year on year, paling sharply against the 1.8 million visitors before.

"It's an encouraging start with the reopening of the Singapore economy and the nascent restart of international flights, but coming from an extremely low base post-circuit breaker," Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank, told The Business Times. She was referring to the two-month shutdown of non-essential businesses in April and May.

Meanwhile, Singapore's average hotel occupancy picked up to 70 per cent in July, from 53.3 per cent in June. Occupancy was highest at large hotels with at least 300 rooms, at 80.3 per cent.

Yet the average occupancy rate was still down from 93.9 per cent in the year-ago period, while industry room revenues came in at S$34 million, down by 91 per cent year on year. That's as revenue per available room (RevPAR) stood 72.1 per cent lower on year, at S$56.9.

July's rebound in arrival numbers was driven by visitors from South-east Asia, who made up roughly one-third of all arrivals, or about 2,310 visitors. Of these Asean travellers, the lion's share were from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines combined.

Another 1,410 visitors hailed from the Greater China region, with the bulk coming from mainland China.

Overall, the top three markets that sent travellers to Singapore were: mainland China, with 958 visitors; Indonesia, with 793; and India, with 634.

Singapore, like many other countries, has enacted border control measures to curb the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus - including an unprecedented suspension of short-term visitors and transit passengers that came into force on March 23.

While most short-term visitors are still not allowed, the Republic has gradually reopened through "green lane", "fast lane" and other arrangements. As of end-August, travellers from China, Malaysia, Brunei and New Zealand can now enter Singapore, subject to certain conditions.

The Covid-19 pandemic's toll on travel- and tourism-related industries has been immense, sparking layoffs at businesses such as Resorts World Sentosa, Millennium Hotels and Resorts and Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The STB, Enterprise Singapore and Sentosa Development Corp launched a S$45 million initiative in late July to revitalise the sector with staycations and other local tourism activities. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat also unveiled S$320 million in "tourism credits" in mid-August to drive domestic spending.

Said Ms Ling: "I do not expect the occupancy and domestic tourism campaign to fully plug the gap for the hospitality sector, but just buy time for now until the green lanes and travel bubbles open and there is a further resumption of international travel."

But, citing an International Air Transport Association forecast for global passenger traffic to reach pre-Covid-19 levels only in 2024, she warned that "the outlook remains very challenging".

Tourism typically makes up about 4 per cent of Singapore's annual gross domestic product.

The STB defines international visitors as people who spend less than a year in Singapore. This figure excludes returning citizens, permanent residents and pass holders; Malaysians arriving by land; non-resident air and sea crew; and air transit passengers.