Coronavirus: No 'golden week' bonanza for Singapore travel agencies

The empty Changi Airport Terminal 2 departure hall is seen on April 30, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

With a ban on short-term visitors to Singapore still in force, local travel agencies say they are not expecting any business during the "golden week" holiday, which starts today and is especially popular with East Asian travellers.

Tourists from China often flock to destinations like Japan, Thailand and Singapore during the week.

In May last year, for example, there were about 1.5 million visitors to Singapore, of which 283,400 were from China, according to figures from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

GTMC Travel's owner Samson Tan said the hard-hit industry is mostly in hibernation. "There's no business at all now, so I'm focusing on relationship marketing with my customers and suppliers, in preparation for a rebound," he said.

The Singapore travel industry just about ground to a halt after the World Health Organisation on March 11 announced the coronavirus to be a pandemic.

Travel operator Trav Coach is hoping local travel measures will be relaxed as China begins to reopen its borders. It usually handles between 6,000 and 7,000 Chinese visitors in the month of May, and up to 9,000 visitors during the peak travel season in June and July.

Singapore banned all short-term visitors from March 24 to cut the number of imported virus cases.

The number of arrivals in March represents an 85 per cent year-on-year drop, according to figures published by STB on the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network website. There were 240,000 arrivals to the island in March, the lowest since the severe acute respiratory system (Sars) outbreak in 2003.

The STB has set aside $22 million to help businesses in the industry market their services, and build demand in anticipation of resumed global travel.

Of the sum, $2 million will go towards creating compelling Singapore stories and supporting content creators to draw visitors.

Separately, the minimum financial requirement needed by travel agents to fulfil their licence has been reduced by 90 per cent until the end of the year. Travel agents holding general licences will now have to maintain a net value of $10,000 while for niche licence holders, the minimum is $5,000.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: No 'golden week' bonanza for Singapore travel agencies. Subscribe