Businesses in S'pore taking advantage of downtime in tourism to spruce up offerings: STB

Visitors at Haw Par Villa on Sept 9, 2019.
Visitors at Haw Par Villa on Sept 9, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Several businesses in the hospitality industry are using the slowdown in tourist arrivals to spruce up their attractions in preparation for a future upswing, said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

For example, Haw Par Villa closed its doors from October last year for the STB to conduct upgrading works, which are expected to be completed in March this year.

These include enhanced night lighting works for the park, ventilation works for the 10 Courts of Hell diorama, as well as conservation works for the sculptures.

Speaking to The Straits Times' The Big Story on Monday (Feb 1), STB chief executive Keith Tan said: "I believe some of the hotels have also taken this opportunity to spruce up or to accelerate some of the renovation plans."

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is pushing ahead with expansion plans it announced in 2019.

They include new attractions at the Universal Studios Singapore such as the Minion Park and Super Nintendo World.

They are part of a $4.5 billion development investment which will see RWS add more than 164,000 sq m, about half of its current gross floor area.

The projects, which include a waterfront complex with two hotels and eateries, are slated to be completed in 2025.

Visitor arrivals here are at its lowest in about four decades amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

There were about 2.7 million visitor arrivals last year, an 85.7 per cent decline from the number recorded in 2019.

Nearly all of the arrivals in 2020 took place during the first two months of the year, said the STB in a press release on Monday.

Tourism receipts had also tumbled, falling 78.4 per cent to $4.4 billion in the first three quarters of last year, from the same period in 2019.

With international travel at a standstill, domestic tourism now has a crucial role in supporting tourism businesses, added STB.

More than 300,000 Singaporeans have used their $100 SingapoRediscovers vouchers (SRV) to book hotels, attractions and tours since redemptions began on Dec 1.

When asked if a second tranche of vouchers will be given out, Mr Tan said: "I don't know.

"I think what we would like to see is to have more Singaporeans use their existing tranche of the SRV to go out and patronise and support our local tourism businesses."

The STB said that to date, about 10 per cent, or about $36 million, of the $320 million package has been utilised.

Mr Tan said that the number one priority is to make sure that the country will be in the best position to capture a demand for visits to Singapore when borders reopen.

He said STB will double down on its efforts to make sure that tourism businesses have the capabilities to support safe, smaller and contactless experiences.

"We will continue our efforts at making sure that our tourist guides are all skilled with the ability to act as a safe travel concierge service to groups that come to Singapore to help them manage and navigate through all the different restrictions here in Singapore safely.

"Ultimately, what we want to do is to position our tourism industry as different, safe, trusted and innovative... different from our competitors around the world."