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Singapore turns to domestic tourism as the travel industry falters with the coronavirus

SINGAPORE – Singapore is turning to domestic tourism as its borders remain largely closed to foreign visitors due to the coronavirus.

“The tourism sector in Singapore has been severely affected by this pandemic,” said Chaly Mah, chairman of the Singapore Tourism Board, on the sidelines of the Singapore Summit on Tuesday.

Singapore got off to a great start to the year with 1.69 million visitors in January, an increase from 1

.62 million in the same month a year ago. However, as authorities tried to control the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, travel restrictions were imposed. Immigration controls have plunged numbers by about 99 percent year-over-year in recent months, he said.

“Since we’re a small country and don’t have the benefit of domestic travel, what we’re trying to do now is encourage Singaporeans to visit some of our local tourist attractions,” Mah said.

Authorities are trying to fill some of the tourism revenue shortage by inviting Singaporeans to visit attractions in their country.

Since our borders are still closed, the idea of ​​a flight to nowhere, a cruise to nowhere is an interesting idea for a small city-state like Singapore.

Chaly Mah

president of the Singapore Tourism Board

Singapore travelers generated approximately $ 34 billion ($ 25 billion) in overseas tourism-related spending in 2018, the tourism board told CNBC. The goal is to capture about 10% of that amount from domestic travelers, Mah told CNBC’s “Road Signs”.

Tourists who came to Singapore spent Singapore dollars 27.7 billion ($ 20.4 billion) in revenue here last year, according to data from the Singapore government.

The Singapore Tourism Board launched the SingapoRediscovers campaign in July to encourage Singapore residents to spend on hotels, restaurants and attractions.

The government also announced that it will distribute 320 million Singapore dollars in “tourist credits” to residents to drive local spending on domestic travel.

“The idea is to have Singapore and local residents visit some of our local tourist spots and rediscover Singapore,” Mah said.

“In order to have an authentic experience for our tourists in Singapore, we need to make sure that our Singaporeans experience some of these local attractions so that they can tell an authentic story when they relate it to tourists,” he added.

People wearing face masks as a preventative measure jog along Merlion Park, a major tourist destination in Singapore, through Marina Bay Sands, during the Covid-19 crisis.

Maverick Asio | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

There are many attractions and experiences in the country that “Singaporeans take for granted but have never visited,” Mah said.

He added that the tourism board wants to bring some traffic back to the cruise business.

“Since our borders are still closed, the idea of ​​flying to nowhere, cruising to nowhere is an interesting idea for a small city-state like Singapore,” Mah said. Singapore Airlines is said to be taking in. consider flights to nowhere.

Meanwhile, Singapore has mutual green lane travel arrangements in place with several countries, including China and Malaysia. At the moment they mainly cater to business and official travelers.

The city-state will slowly reopen its borders to more international travelers in a “deliberate and calibrated way,” Mah said.

– Correction: This story has been edited to reflect that Singapore travelers spent $ 34 billion on overseas tourism spending in 2018, not 2019. The subject of the interview was misspelled. It has also been corrected to clarify the position of the tourism board in the sector of cruises and cruises to nowhere.

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