Despite the inauguration of Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) for visitors from 11 countries, it is doubtful that Singapore will witness a significant increase in inbound tourism in the near future.
This is because, according to the Singapore Tourism Board, the global recovery of foreign travel, particularly long-haul travel, would be sluggish (STB).
The debut of the VTLs, according to STB chief executive Keith Tan, is still a significant milestone.
“As passengers grow more familiar to the new standards and procedures, such as mutual acceptance of vaccination certificates, become more simplified, we anticipate travel volume to increase and vaccinated travel to become more of the norm,” Mr Tan added.
Vaccinated travelers may enter Singapore without having to serve stay-at-home notices because of the VTLs. They will instead undergo a Covid-19 swab test before to travel and upon arrival in Singapore.
So far, the Republic has established ten VTLs for visitors from Germany, Brunei, the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Canada, and France.
Travelers may fly between these nations without having to pass through quarantine on either side, with the exception of Brunei, which has just recently opened up to those traveling from Singapore.
VTLs will be launched jointly by Singapore and South Korea on November 15.
While expats and travel-starved Singaporeans have applauded the VTLs’ introduction, academics and industry analysts have predicted that inbound tourism would not be much boosted.
Travelers from the 11 VTL nations accounted for fewer than 20% of overall tourist arrivals in 2019, according to the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA), which represents 160 member hotels in Singapore.
China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, and Australia were the top tourism destinations at the time.
The VTLs are positive, but they will not solve the SHA’s financial problems, according to Ms Kwee Wei-Lin, president of the SHA.
“Because most VTLs entail long-distance travel, overseas tourists will have to relearn Singapore over time,” she noted.
“To have a genuinely great vacation in Singapore, our public health measures will need to be restored to pre-pandemic levels, allowing visitors to enjoy authentic local activities without limitation.”
Andreas Spaeth, a 55-year-old German journalist who visited Singapore on a media trip in September, said it would be difficult for tourists to enjoy their stay here given the present circumstances.
“We never had this law in Germany,” he remarked, referring to the need to wear masks in the humid heat of the outdoors.
Other concerns he mentioned were the requirement for continual access to mobile data in order to utilize TraceTogether, as well as the administrative work required to enter under the VTL.
Singapore would be hampered by restricted regional borders, according to experts and business participants.
Mr Ong Hanjie, a director at travel operator EU Holidays, said that before Covid-19 struck, 19 out of 20 tour groups would fly to at least one other nation.
Many visitors would spend two to three days in each of Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia in addition to Singapore. Flying from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City was another popular route for South Korean and Japanese travelers.
The travel bubble between Australia and Singapore might be constructed as soon as next week. The Covid-19 epidemic has also harmed other attractions that Singapore had in the past.
Alcohol sales must cease at 10.30 p.m., thereby eliminating the nightlife sector.
Clarke Quay is no longer the lively area it once was, according to Mr Nasen Thiagarajan, vice-president of the Singapore Nightlife Business Association.
“What am I going to do as a tourist if you tell me I can’t do anything after 10.30pm?” he said. People aren’t coming here to see a midnight movie, I don’t believe.”
The fly-cruise business, in which passengers fly in from Singapore for cruises, has also been destroyed. Only Singapore citizens are served by the two cruise ships that depart from Singapore.
Mr Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises and head of international sales at Genting Cruise Lines, stated that prior to the pandemic, Dream Cruises had a constantly expanding number of fly-cruise passengers from more than 30 countries who contributed to 70% of its capacity.
Both Dream Voyages and Royal Caribbean International, the other cruise line, said they are working with authorities to see whether guests would be allowed to participate on cruises again.
However, there is a bright lining: in the last year, more Singapore locals have joined their cruises.
“We’re also seeing a surge in new demographic categories from expatriates, Muslim travelers, couples without children, and families with non-school-aged children,” Mr Goh added.
Angie Stephen, vice-president and managing director for Asia-Pacific at Royal Caribbean International, said the company has set its eyes on resuming cruises to additional nations, with a new ship planned to set sail in October next year.
Despite the existing limits, some experts believe that Singapore’s capacity to define and enforce Covid-19 laws, as well as its reputed healthcare facilities, will provide comfort to some. Hotels, like restaurants, maintain a high degree of cleanliness and hygiene.
“In this current climate, I believe that all visitors, regardless of their purpose of visit, are likely to rank safety and hygiene as the most important factor,” said Mr Eugene Pang, course manager of Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Business Management’s diploma in hospitality and tourism management.
Mr Tan of STB recognized the obstacles created by geographically limited borders as well as local Covid-19 regulations. But, he said, they are just temporary reactions to Covid-19.
“We are sure that Singapore will reclaim its long-standing destination appeal as Singapore gradually reopens and eliminates these limitations,” he added.