Singapore's international arrivals climbed month on month for the third straight month in April,* with border authorities notching the highest number of travellers since the Covid-19 pandemic began, according to the latest figures from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
Some 294,300 visitors hit the island’s shores in April, up from 121,200 in March, although volumes were still far lower than the 1.6 million recorded in April 2019, before the pandemic.
Indonesia overtook India as the biggest source of arrivals, sending 58,270 travellers in April, up from 13,620 in March. There were 40,970 travellers from India, up from 27,530 in March.
Australia accounted for 27,310 visitors in April, a jump from 7,880 in the month before, and Malaysia came in fourth with 25,280 travellers, against 10,610 in March.
China, Singapore’s biggest inbound market from 2017 to 2019, sent just 5,000 travellers in April, up from 4,130 in March – and a far cry from 302,100 in April 2019.
Selena Ling, chief economist at OCBC, remarked that regional tourism “may generate a lot more of the visitor flows”, with China the main market remaining closed.
“Indonesia is definitely a key market for Singapore, so it bodes well for the retail and food and beverage (F&B) sectors. The Indian market is also a growing one. Any ‘revenge travel’ boom may be music to the ears of the aviation, tourism-related hospitality, F&B and retail industries,” she said.
Paul Kent, an advisory partner at KPMG, noted that India and Indonesia are usually among the largest incoming tourist markets, and arrivals from these 2 countries “will go a long way in helping Singapore’s tourism sector”.
“Australia, on the other hand, makes for a smaller proportion of visitor arrivals, but the average spend per visitor tends to be relatively higher,” he said.
Added CIMB economist Song Seng Wun: “The April visitor arrival stats basically show a modest recovery is underway for our tourism sector as restrictions are eased. … We should see the recovery in the service-providing industry reflected in the second-quarter gross domestic product.”
But Govinda Singh, executive director for Asia hotels and leisure at Colliers, told The Business Times that “we do not expect the impact of border restrictions to become significantly apparent until after an initial ‘settling-in period’” in the second quarter, as demand is now driven by family visits and stopovers.
“Prevailing restrictions in key source markets, reduced airlift capacity and bottlenecks at airports as a result of the labour crunch have and will continue to temper international travel in the near term,” he said, adding that high-volume Chinese travel is unlikely before mid-2023.
Singapore significantly reopened its international borders to all fully vaccinated travellers on Apr 1, 2022, with the introduction of a vaccinated travel framework for arrivals from around the world. The Republic also lifted a requirement for negative pre-departure tests on Apr 26.
With domestic and border policies almost completely normalised, Transport Minister S Iswaran recently disclosed that passenger volumes at Changi Airport rose from 18 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in March to nearly 40 per cent in April and more than 40 per cent in May.
Kent noted that potential tourist flows into Singapore – and, thus, tourism receipts here – remain “somewhat curtailed” by consumer sentiment and pandemic restrictions. Still, Singapore is working to position itself as a standalone destination and a location for large-scale international events, he added.
Colliers – which indicated in a recent report that Singapore’s retail outlook will get a boost from the return of tourist spending – expects travel to increase gradually in the coming months.
All segments of the tourism industry are likely to be active in late 2022, as key meeting, incentive travel, convention and exhibition events resume, said Singh.
The STB defines international visitors as people who spend less than a year in Singapore; this group excludes returning residents and pass holders, Malaysians arriving by land, non-resident air and sea crew, and air-transit passengers.
*Amendment note: This article has been amended to correctly reflect the number of months of growth.
Credit: Business Times