Singapore will welcome them back, but a full return of Chinese tourists is unlikely in 2023, Singapore Tourism Board executives said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Singapore Tourism Board CEO Keith Tan cited limited flight capacity and the speed of the reopening of China’s border as some of the reasons why a full recovery of Chinese tourists is not expected this year.
Tan told UKTN that travel recovery from China is unlikely to exceed 60% of pre-Covid levels by the end of the year.
“We hope to get between 30% and 60% of where we were for the full year of 2023 compared to the full year of 2019,” he said. “In our most ambitious and aggressive scenarios, we hope things will be almost back to normal by the end of 2023.”
Currently the number of flights from Singapore to China is only 10% of what it was before Covid. Unlike other countries in Asia, Singapore has not imposed any new Covid-related restrictions on travelers from China.
Singapore’s tourism industry is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, according to the tourism board.
Competition from Hong Kong
Tan said he welcomes competition from Hong Kong in the field of MICE: meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.
Hong Kong “will dedicate a lot of resources to securing and anchoring a whole range of events,” he said.
“I welcome that competition. I think it’s good, and I’m glad Hong Kong is back in business… but that also means we have to work harder to secure a good run of events and investment for Singapore. “
Juliana Kua, assistant CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board, added that “a strong pipeline of MICE events is underway to attract Chinese business travelers”.
Kua said a trend seen among Chinese travelers is small group bookings with tailor-made itineraries, rather than ready-made package tours. The Singapore Tourism Board is targeting these travelers, she said.
Singapore’s international visitor numbers reached 6.3 million in 2022, which is 33% of 2019 levels, according to Singapore Tourism Board statistics. About 1.1 million visitors came from Indonesia, the highest number of arrivals of any country.
Preliminary estimates for tourism revenue are between $13.8 billion and $14.3 billion Singapore dollars ($10.4 billion and $10.8 billion), which is about half of 2019 tourism revenue.