Singapore’s tourism sector remained resilient in 2021, ready for recovery in 2022 and beyond

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International visitor arrivals and tourism receipts reached 330,000 and $1.9 billion[1], with encouraging growth amid continued border restrictions

Singapore’s international visitor arrivals (IVA) and tourism receipts (TR) reached 330,000 and an estimated $1.9 billion[2] respectively in 2021. While these numbers represent only a fraction of Singapore’s tourism performance prior to the pandemic, there have been encouraging signs of recovery in the tourism sector, with year-on-year growth in the last three quarters of 2021. The introduction of various travel arrangements, such as Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs), has encouraged the gradual return of international travellers. Domestic consumption has also been strong, as the tourism sector pivoted to develop new and innovative experiences for locals.

Mr Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said: “While it will take time for tourism numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels, we are encouraged by the resilience of our tourism businesses, and their commitment to preserve good jobs, transform their businesses and invest in new products and experiences. These efforts will strengthen Singapore’s appeal as we prepare to welcome more international visitors.

“We must anticipate setbacks and challenges even as the tourism industry recovers slowly. But I am confident that the tourism industry has learned from its experiences, and is poised to recapture demand when it returns.”

2021 Tourism Performance

Singapore’s tourism sector recorded overall year-on-year declines in IVA and TR, largely due to the effect of strong tourism performance in the first two months of 2020[3]. IVA increased 221 percent in the last three quarters of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.  TR for the second and third quarters of 2021 is 92 percent higher than the same period in 2020.

Between January and December 2021, 330,000 international visitors arrived in Singapore. China (88,000), India (54,000), and Indonesia (33,000) were the top three visitor source markets in 2021.

Between January and September 2021[4], TR reached $1.2 billion. Visitors from China, Indonesia, and India contributed $432 million, $127 million, and $58 million in TR (excluding Sightseeing, Entertainment, and Gaming)[5] respectively.

Stimulating Domestic Consumption

During this period, the tourism sector adapted to focus on domestic tourism, supported by STB initiatives such as the SingapoRediscovers campaign and the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) scheme, which were both launched in 2020, as well as a range of new partnerships. By the end of the SRV scheme on 31 December 2021, about 1.9 million Singaporeans have used their vouchers at least once, making about 2.6 million transactions. Close to $300 million in SRV transactions were recorded, comprising close to $180 million in vouchers and about $120 million in out-of-pocket payments for SRV bookings.

Key partnerships to support domestic tourism included a collaboration with Mastercard on the “Rediscover Priceless® Singapore” campaign – which leveraged consumer insights, spending behaviour and trends to promote local tourism businesses.

As part of our existing three-year partnership with DBS, STB also tapped on DBS’s data analytics capabilities to curate itineraries, destination content, and promotions, to encourage locals to explore Singapore. 

Key Industry Performance

Hotels Industry Performance

In 2021, several new hotels with unique lifestyle concepts opened in Singapore, such as The Clan, Maxwell Reserve and Oasia Resort Sentosa. These additions complement existing hotels that used this period to refresh or rebrand their properties, such as Hilton Singapore (reopening as voco Orchard Singapore in 2022) and Mandarin Orchard (reopening as Hilton Singapore Orchard in 2022).

To appeal to the domestic market, other hotels introduced unique staycation and guest experiences. For example, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore launched the world’s only augmented reality (AR) hotel art tour for visitors to interact virtually with art pieces by globally-renowned artists such as Dale Chihuly and Frank Stella.

Grand Hyatt Singapore also partnered with homegrown sports apparel brand Kydra and local organic food producers for its Recharge Wellness Retreat, to cater to the growing demand for sustainability and wellness experiences.

From January to December 2021, Singapore’s hotel industry registered an Average Occupancy Rate (AOR) of 56.2 percent. This is a slight decrease of 1.1 percentage points compared to the previous year when AOR was reinforced by strong tourism performance in the first two months of 2020. The average Room Rate increased slightly by 2.7 percent to $158, while the Revenue per Available Room held steady at $89.

MICE and Leisure Events

The resumption of MICE[6] events picked up pace in 2021, following the introduction of the Safe Business Events Framework in 2020. In 2021, Singapore hosted more than 200 MICE events with almost 50,000 local and international attendees. These included pilot events to testbed new protocols, such as the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific 2021, Milken Institute Asia Summit, and the 50th St Gallen Symposium.

STB will continue to build up the pipeline of significant MICE events for 2022 and beyond, including some multi-year events. Notable ones include FIND – Design Fair Asia (2022–2024), Gastech 2023, Global Health Security Conference 2022, 60th International Young Lawyers’ Congress 2022, Seafood Expo 2022, SILMO Singapore (2023–2025), transport logistic and air cargo 2023, World One Health Congress 2022 and the World Congress of Dermatology 2023.

Leisure and lifestyle events that STB supported in 2021 included the Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom exhibition at Gardens by the Bay and the international premiere of Pop-Up Disney! A Mickey Celebration. STB also supported the Mobile Legends Bang Bang M3 World Championship in December 2021, and the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa – the first international professional golf tournament in Asia, and the first to have corporate hospitality suites in Singapore since the start of the pandemic.

STB will expand the range and scale of such lifestyle and leisure events in 2022, to meet local demand and ensure that Singapore remains attractive to international visitors. One example will be the upcoming series of ONE Championship events in 2022.

Tours Industry Performance

The local tours industry performed well in 2021, with close to 320,000 local participants and strong month-on-month growth for most of the year. STB also launched the Tour Experience Innovation Lab (TEIL) and partnered with other agencies to encourage the growth of new and innovative tour products.

Under TEIL, STB partnered with the National Arts Council (NAC) for the Performing Arts Tours Pilot Grant, to help tour operators and arts practitioners develop innovative performing arts tours. Five new tours were borne out of this pilot grant.[7]

Under TEIL, STB also worked closely with the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) and tour operators to develop a series of sustainability- and heritage-themed tours, SentoSights, which showcase a different side of Sentosa. 10 new SentoSights tours were launched, focusing on heritage, sustainability, marine conservation, and biodiversity.[8]

Attractions Industry Performance

The attractions industry worked hard to create new experiences to attract locals. For example, Wild Wild Wet introduced new concepts such as its version of a Songkran Festival[9], while Kidztopia had special unlimited entry passes to drive weekday demand.

Singapore also welcomed new attractions such as the Museum of Ice Cream and SkyHelix Sentosa. Existing attractions used this period to refresh their offerings or introduce new ones, which included Haw Par Villa’s Hell’s Museum, the Brickosaurs World at Singapore Zoo and River Wonders, ArtScience Museum’s new permanent Virtual Reality (VR) gallery, Madame Tussaud’s Singapore: Marvel Universe display, National Orchid Garden’s Tropical Montane Orchidetum, and Gardens by the Bay’s Orchid Haven.

There is also a series of new attractions in the pipeline. For example, the Jewel-rassic Quest, a ticketed AR experience at Jewel Changi Airport’s Canopy Park and Shiseido Forest Valley is slated to launch in 2022. Using immersive AR technology, users will be transported 89 million years into the past on a quest, where they will complete activities and interact with dinosaurs along the way.

Cruise Industry Performance

The cruise industry rebounded strongly following the start of “cruises-to-nowhere” in late 2020. Since then, Singapore’s cruise industry saw over 400,000 domestic passengers set sail on close to 300 cruise sailings. With the implementation of STB’s CruiseSafe certification programme and strong support from both Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, there have been no COVID-19 clusters on board the two cruise ships to date.

Looking Ahead

STB will continue to ramp up efforts in our key source markets and deepen engagements with our tourism partners to capture growth and inspire travel to Singapore.

For example, STB will work with Singapore Airlines and the Changi Airport Group on the “Welcome Back to Singapore” campaign to instill travel confidence among international travellers.

The campaign has been launched in Germany and India after VTLs were established with these two markets. It will be progressively launched in more markets including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Korea.

In 2021, STB stepped up efforts around the world to strengthen Singapore’s mindshare as a top destination in the minds of avid travellers who found themselves unable to travel. In 2022, STB will continue these efforts through in-market partnerships, such as Airbnb Experiences, Studio Dragon, and the SingapoReimagine ULTRAMAN video series. In retail, STB will continue to collaborate with Made With Passion[10] Singapore brands, as well as brands in key markets such as India.

Ramping up our focus on urban wellness and sustainability

We are heartened to see more tourism businesses adopt sustainable practices, in line with Singapore’s aspiration to be a top sustainable and innovative urban destination. In 2021, STB became a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), while Resorts World Sentosa became the first tourism business in Southeast Asia to secure GSTC Destination Criteria and Industry Criteria for Hotels certification. Mandai Wildlife Group also introduced its Mandai Environmental Sustainability Strategy and green procurement roadmap.

Meanwhile, STB is working closely with the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) to develop a hotel sustainability roadmap with strategies and targets for the industry, which will be launched later this year.

To support our push towards becoming a leading urban wellness haven, we established a 5-year roadmap that identified key strategies and initiatives to develop Singapore’s wellness offerings. As part of this roadmap, we are pursuing strategic partnerships with industry stakeholders such as ClassPass, as well as launching an inaugural wellness festival in June 2022 to promote and increase the accessibility of Singapore’s wellness offerings.

Ensuring a pipeline of quality tourism workers

Even as we prepare for recovery, STB will focus on preserving good jobs and investing in future tourism growth by building up key manpower capabilities.  

STB – together with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Hospitality and Consumer Business Cluster unions[11], Workforce Singapore (WSG) and e2i, and the support of key Trade Associations[12]– will launch the Tourism Careers Hub in 2022 to provide training and skills upgrading for tourism workers and businesses, as well as support for individuals interested in pursuing tourism careers.

The Tourism Careers Hub will focus on three areas: (1) job matching within the tourism sector; (2) developing industry-specific capabilities to prepare the tourism workforce for recovery; and (3) encouraging technology transformation and business innovation to seize new growth opportunities.

Devendra Grover
Devender was born in the year when the Beatles Group was formed. He holds two master’s degrees in English Literature and Public Administration. He also has an Honors degree in English Literature and a post-graduate diploma in Corporate Communications and Public Relations. He ventured into business, forming his own Media House, Profiles Media Network Private Limited, a twenty-year-old company. Excelling as an editor, Marketing, PR, Anchor, and Advertising specialist, he is now expertly navigating the world of social media. A widely traveled professional internationally, Devender has a deep understanding of Travel and Tourism, Fashion and Lifestyle, Aviation, and Hospitality Industry. Connect with Devender Grover @ [email protected]