British firms confident in Singapore despite virus outbreak

The poll noted that 93 per cent of respondents cancelled outbound business travel and close to half of the members said they restricted inbound travel to Singapore.
The poll noted that 93 per cent of respondents cancelled outbound business travel and close to half of the members said they restricted inbound travel to Singapore.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Members of the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore are in little doubt that the Republic will remain a viable business hub despite the coronavirus outbreak, a new poll noted.

It found that 97 per cent of members polled backed Singapore as a long-term business centre while 87 per cent said the Government has been effective in addressing the possible economic impact of the outbreak.

The poll on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses was conducted by the chamber from March 4 to 11, and drew 76 respondents out of its 400 members.

One member, Knight Frank Asia-Pacific managing director Kevin Coppel, said: "So far, the speed and transparency with which the Singapore Government has dealt with the Covid-19 outbreak has given us confidence that this is one of the best places to be to ride out the episode."

Close to 80 per cent of the respondents said that their business here has been affected.

This compares with 88 per cent of members who reported that their operations in the wider Asia-Pacific region have been affected.

Over half of respondents are anticipating a drop in revenue this year, while a third of those surveyed said it was too early to estimate the impact.

Chamber members said they have responded to disruptions to their usual operations by adopting digital tools such as video conferencing and webinars.

Business travel has been of concern as countries look to contain imported cases and limit the spread of the virus globally, the chamber noted.

The poll noted that 93 per cent of respondents cancelled outbound business travel and close to half of the members said they restricted inbound travel to Singapore.

Planned events have also been affected, with 90 per cent saying they cancelled or plan to cancel events with over 50 attendees within Singapore.

Many have filled this gap with webinars and other digital content solutions which they will continue to some extent, the chamber noted.

Chamber president Richard Warburton said the survey highlights some of the challenges for the British business community in Singapore, but demonstrates members' support for the way the Government has been handling the outbreak here.

"With Singapore being a major hub for business across the Asia-Pacific region, the chamber will use the results of this survey to look at how we can support the continuation of trade and maintain the connectivity of the business ecosystem in Singapore," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2020, with the headline 'British firms confident in S'pore despite virus outbreak'. Print Edition | Subscribe