Tourism contributes only about 4 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product but, last year, the industry employed about 65,000 workers across areas such as hotels and attractions. While the Singapore Tourism Board earlier had projected tourist arrivals to fall by up to 30 per cent this year, the true impact of the coronavirus pandemic could be far worse. Numbers for April and May witnessed a 99.9 per cent drop, laying a sombre precedent for the rest of the year because of the way Covid-19 continues to spread in the world. It would be unrealistic to expect the global situation to change quickly and sharply for the better so that leisure travel can resume any time soon. The tourism industry is in for tough times.
There is, however, some hope still in numbers. Singapore has a significant domestic market. In 2018, Singaporeans spent more than $34 billion on overseas travel. By contrast, tourism receipts for the country in the same year came to $27 billion. Obviously, all overseas spending, postponed now by the pandemic, cannot be translated into spending in the domestic market. Singapore's small size and familiarity preclude its replicating the experience of large countries, where domestic tourism can be a viable alternative to foreign tourism when national borders are closed to leisure travel. But Singaporeans should help boost local tourism, by diverting at least a fraction of what they would have spent on overseas travel, so that attractions do not stand empty.