SINGAPORE – International visitor arrivals to Singapore are expected to hit 12 million to 14 million in 2023, with full tourism recovery expected by 2024.
Tourism receipts are also anticipated to climb to $18 billion to $21 billion.
The bullish forecast released on Tuesday by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) comes on the back of better-than-expected numbers in 2022, which ended with 6.3 million international visitor arrivals and estimated tourism receipts of $14 billion.
Indonesia was the top market generating tourism receipts, contributing $1.1 billion in 2022. India came in second at $704 million, and Australia was third at $633 million.
The numbers are still a fraction of pre-Covid-19 tourism performance figures. In 2019, visitor arrivals hit a record of 19.1 million, while tourism receipts hit $27.7 billion.
However, the forecast is made based on several factors, such as no new Covid-19 variant of concern rearing its head, China’s continued reopening and international flight capacities continuing to be ramped up.
Tourism recovery in 2023 will be supplemented by a $110 million injection – part of the $500 million set aside by the Government to boost the industry – for ramping up business and leisure events over 2023 and 2024.
STB chief executive Keith Tan said potential dampening factors include a global economic slowdown and the introduction of border restrictions by other countries.
On the latter, he gave as an example India’s imposition of mandatory Covid-19 testing for travellers from six places, including Singapore. A negative pre-departure polymerase chain reaction test has been required for travellers from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand since Jan 1.
“In fact, it has already had a small impact on travel demand from India to Singapore, so that worries me a little bit, if more countries want to have these border restrictions,” Mr Tan said.
Inflationary pressures, however, will have a relatively small impact on inbound tourism in 2023, especially for Singapore’s key markets, he added.
“In South-east Asia, which is one of our key markets, and in China as it opens, inflationary pressures have been relatively contained, and they are not as pronounced as in Europe or the US,” said Mr Tan.
“The consistent feedback from our partners overseas is that the types of travellers who come to Singapore are quite prepared to bear slightly higher costs (for travel).”
Experts such as Professor Lawrence Loh of the National University of Singapore Business School said that the bigger wild card is the global economic slowdown, which will affect people’s ability to travel.
“The leisure segment takes up a large part of tourism receipts historically... With a slowdown, personal and family travel will largely depend on the disposable income of those who want to consider Singapore as a destination,” said Prof Loh.
Dr Michael Chiam, a senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, noted that factors such as manpower constraints – which continue to plague many industries – may curtail recovery.
“The challenge would be the ability to cope with the sudden jump in tourist arrivals, given resource constraints such as manpower and capacity, which may potentially lead to a struggle in catching up with the sudden increase,” he said.
STB said it would continue to help the tourism sector ramp up hiring to support the pace of recovery. As at September 2022, about 65,000 people, or around 78 per cent of the figures in 2019, were employed in the industry here.
Despite these potential headwinds, Mr Tan said Singapore’s tourism performance in 2022 has underscored the Republic’s appeal as a leading business and leisure destination for post-pandemic travellers.
“To sustain our growth in 2023 and beyond, we will expand our partnerships, build up a rich year-round calendar of events, ramp up investment in new and refreshed products and experiences, and continue to support industry efforts to build the capabilities needed to meet consumer demands,” he said.
Meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) and leisure events will also continue to be a driver of growth, said STB.
New events such as the Olympic Esports Week and Professional Triathletes Organisation Asian Open will take place in Singapore for the first time in 2023.
Mice events such as the Herbalife Apac Extravaganza and the 25th World Congress of Dermatology are also scheduled to take place in Singapore in 2023.