Singapore is in desperate need of revitalization of tourism and business travel. Here are all the ways it has been tried

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Singapore said on Tuesday it would open a separate lane so “business, official and high-value travelers” can visit the city-state without quarantine by staying at a designated location. “Bubble” installation Close to the airport.

The facility, Connect @ Changi, will include bedrooms and conference rooms where visitors can meet other people staying in the bubble. Visitors to the taxiway will be able to meet Singapore residents in the bubble, but only with floor-to-ceiling dividers separating them.

The business travel route is the latest attempt by the Singapore government to revive the country’s very important tourism and business travel sectors, which crumbled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Tourism represents 4% of Singapore’s gross domestic product – it generated $ 20 billion in 2019 – and the city is normally a top spot for business conferences and trade shows.

More than 19 million international tourists – more than three times the country’s population – visited Singapore in 2019, according to the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network. Until October, only 2.7 million visitors had crossed the border in 2020.

Singapore has its coronavirus epidemic largely under control; it has not recorded more than 20 new daily cases since the end of September. But its small size – the island nation spans 280 square miles – means that, unlike its geographically larger Asian peers who have also tamed COVID-19, Singapore cannot rely on domestic tourism to make up for the sharp drop. the number of international visitors.

“We don’t have a large domestic tourism market unlike, say, China, Hong Kong or Australia, and so the impact has been huge on our tourism industry,” Keith Tan, Managing Director the Singapore Tourism Board, said during Fortune World Technology Forum virtual conversation earlier this month.

As part of desperate offers to revive tourism and business travel, Singapore has implemented a series of programs, with varying degrees of success.

Domestic tourism

In June, as Singapore eased stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19 restrictions, the Singapore Tourism Board begin let popular tourist attractions reopen in stages and began to accept requests from domestic tour operators to resume operations.

The following month, the board launched SingaporeRediscovers, a $ 34 million campaign to boost local tourism, providing residents with discounted stay packages, tours and attractions. This campaign included a $ 75 voucher for every Singaporean adult to use at hotels and attractions. On December 1, the first day the vouchers were redeemed, the designated booking platforms recorded sales of $ 1.4 million.

Singapore’s famous Jewel Changi Airport has a 16-meter Christmas tree this holiday season. Earlier this year, the Singapore Tourism Board encouraged residents to “travel” within the country to purchase offer vouchers.

Singapore’s flagship carrier, Singapore Airlines, has also staged creative attempts to increase its income and get some of its planes back in flight. (In October he checked in year-over-year drop of 98.2% in the number of passengers carried.)

The airline has played with the idea of ​​“flights to nowhere”. Passengers boarded a plane that took off from Singapore’s Changi Airport, flew around, and then landed at Changi again. Airlines in Taiwan and Hong Kong has operated “flights to nowhere”, some working better than others. The haze over Hong Kong on the day of the region’s first ‘flight to nowhere’ was so thick that passengers couldn’t see the city from the plane.

Singapore Airlines ultimately did not follow through on the “ flights to nowhere ” idea, opting instead in October for a anchor experience that offered customers dinner and a movie on a double-decker A380 plane for $ 37 to $ 440. The airline has also started offering tours of its training center and the use of its flight simulator.

Singapore has allowed the Royal Caribbean cruise line to launch “cruises to nowhere” from its port, but last week an ill-fated ship returned to port a day earlier after a passenger. tested positive for the coronavirus, despite improved air filters, mandatory testing and other safety protocols officials had demanded of the operator. (It is still not known when or where the passenger contracted the virus.)

Bubbles and alleys

In September, the city-state received the first passengers from Brunei and New Zealand as part of its “Air Travel Pass” program.

The program allows visitors, including leisure tourists, to apply for travel to Singapore and do so without undergoing a 14-day quarantine. Since the program began in September, Singapore has expanded the list eligible regions to include Australia, China, Taiwan and Vietnam. The program is one-sided, meaning Singaporeans wishing to travel to these countries are still subject to existing travel restrictions for coronaviruses.

Cruise ship returns to Singapore after discovery of Covid case
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas cruise ship docked at the Marina Bay Cruise Center in Singapore on December 9, 2020 after a passenger on a “ cruise to nowhere ” tested positive for COVID-19.
Ore Huiying / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Singapore also works reciprocally “Greenway” programs with China, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Brunei, and Germany that allow some business and diplomatic travelers to skip quarantine on arrival if they test negative to COVID-19.

But Singapore has still failed to open a travel bubble with another region that would allow tourists on both sides to travel without self-quarantining.

At the end of November, he very close to sparked a travel bubble with Hong Kong that would have allowed residents in each region to travel without quarantine in the other, but a fourth wave of coronavirus cases in Hong Kong thwarted the bubble and forced authorities to postpone it at least until 2021.

Conference hopes

Singapore’s various travel programs immediately stimulate struggling hotel businesses, but they also try to make Singapore a safe and open place for visitors. Such a reputation would enhance the city-state’s chances of hosting global conferences and events as COVID-19 vaccines become available and the pandemic abates in 2021.

The “MICE industry” – meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions – supported over 34,000 jobs in Singapore and contributed $ 2.9 billion to the economy in 2019, according to at the tourist office.

The World Economic Forum ad earlier this month, it would hold its annual meeting in Singapore instead of Davos, Switzerland. The gathering of economic and political elites is scheduled for May. If this goes off successfully, it will be a boon to Singapore’s economy and a clear indication that the city can host major global events without risking transmission of the coronavirus.

But Singapore is undoubtedly haunted by the worst-case conference scenario it has seen at the start of the pandemic.

At the end of January, with Singapore having the third highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the world (which, at the time, meant 43 cases), a Briton contracted COVID-19 at a business conference in Singapore. The man returned to Europe, where he infected several other people. The media called the Singapore conference a “super event”.

Singapore’s current control over local coronavirus infections supports the city’s argument that it can host global events like the WEF annual meeting next year. But his handling of the virus was far from perfect. Singapore government said Tuesday that half of the city’s migrant workers have had COVID-19.

Authorities used serological tests to detect antibodies, indicating a previous infection, and found that 98,289 workers had them. The government is still completing serological tests for an additional 65,000 workers. The results indicate that the number of cases in Singapore is much higher than the official tally of around 58,000 cases.

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