Coronavirus outbreak

Entry to Sentosa free till end-June to boost local tourism

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat greeting a staff member at bungee jump attraction AJ Hackett during a visit to Sentosa yesterday. AJ Hackett has seen a 50 per cent drop in customers in recent weeks.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat greeting a staff member at bungee jump attraction AJ Hackett during a visit to Sentosa yesterday. AJ Hackett has seen a 50 per cent drop in customers in recent weeks.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Businesses on island also given 50% deferment on rental payments

Visitors to Sentosa will enjoy free admission from Saturday until the end of June as part of efforts to boost local visitorship and prop up business on the resort island, which has been hard hit by the tourism slowdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), which announced last month that admission will be waived during the March school holidays, said yesterday it will extend the free admission until June 30 to encourage more local residents to visit.

Businesses on the island will also be allowed to defer 50 per cent of their rental payments from April to June and repay it in interest-free instalments over 12 months, SDC said.

The measures, which are part of the $4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package for businesses and workers announced in this year's Budget, follow feedback from tenants on business sentiment, it said.

More promotions, including hotel and attraction packages, will also be rolled out across the island this month, said SDC, a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

SDC chief executive Quek Swee Kuan said last month that businesses on the island had reported a drop in visitorship and sales of between 20 per cent and 50 per cent.

Island admission ranges between $2 and $6, while entry is already free for those who enter via the Sentosa Boardwalk.

The rental deferment scheme may be extended to tenants of other government agencies, depending on how badly they have been impacted by the virus, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said during a visit to Sentosa yesterday.

Earlier in the day, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the Government was working on a second stimulus package for businesses and workers as the global outbreak has worsened since the Budget was presented last month.

Asked what it will contain, Mr Chee said the Government is studying the measures needed to support companies and ensure that as many jobs as possible are kept amid the outbreak.

Cash flow relief is one part of the support for businesses, but bringing back demand is more important, he said, adding that this will involve boosting confidence in public hygiene and changing social norms.

"For example, at our restaurants, we may have to space out the seating," he said.

There is no contradiction between encouraging locals to go out over the school holidays and the Government's recent intensifying of social distancing measures, as long as extra precautions are taken, said Mr Chee.

The Singapore Tourism Board has projected a drop of up to 30 per cent in tourist arrivals for the year amid the global spread of the coronavirus.

Mr Luke Johnson, general manager of bungee jump attraction AJ Hackett, said it has seen a 50 per cent drop in customers in recent weeks, with locals making up an increasing share of visitors.

Capella Singapore, which famously hosted the Trump-Kim summit in 2018, has not been spared as travel restrictions and fewer tourist arrivals have hurt business, said Ms Kwee Wei-Lin, senior vice-president for hotels at Pontiac Land Group, which owns Capella.

"Fortunately, on weekends, we do get staycations so we are very thankful for the Singaporeans who have been coming to stay at our hotels," she said. Local visitors helped the group's hotels survive during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003.

Resorts World Sentosa told The Straits Times it will be rolling out several promotions aimed at locals this month, including free all-day parking and dining vouchers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2020, with the headline 'Entry to Sentosa free till end-June to boost local tourism'. Print Edition | Subscribe