SINGAPORE - The number of visitors to Singapore plummeted to a historic low of 748 in April, the first full month since a ban on short-term visitors was put in place.
The Straits Times understands that these visitors were allowed entry due to extenuating circumstances.
The figure represents a near 100 per cent drop from the 1.6 million tourists that came in the same month last year, according to figures published by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network website.
The average length of stay, however, shot up more than 1,000 per cent, from three days to 39 days.
Mr Poh Chi Chuan, STB's executive director for digital transformation, told ST that this was likely due to stay-home notice requirements for short-term visitors, as well as a lower number of visitors entering Singapore.
Data shows that Indonesia was the top source of visitors in April, with about 200 arrivals, followed by Thailand, with 153, and Malaysia, with 96.
There were only 18 visitors from China, Singapore's traditional top source market.
About 2.7 million tourists arrived here from January to April, a 58 per cent decrease compared with the same period last year.
The unprecedented move to bar short-term visitors from entering or transiting through Singapore took effect on March 24, amid the escalating global spread of Covid-19.
There were 240,000 visitors that month, the lowest since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak hit the Republic in 2003.
Singapore has not reported any imported coronavirus cases since May 10, when a returning Singaporean was confirmed to be infected.
Mr Poh said that border restrictions are being eased in a careful, risk-calibrated manner, taking into account the evolving situation in Singapore as well as other countries.
"As the global situation remains volatile, the easing of border restrictions will be implemented separately from the phased approach for the resumption of business activities post-circuit breaker," he said.
The resumption of cross-border travel will require a mutual assurance of health standards and having necessary safeguards in place, said Mr Poh.
This has started on a limited scale through green lane arrangements that focus on transit passengers, as well as essential business and official travel that supports Singapore's economic recovery, critical services and global supply chains, he added.
Singapore is preparing to resume essential travel through arrangements with certain countries to facilitate health screening and contact tracing.
A fast-lane agreement with China will kick in on June 8 to allow approved business and official trips to go ahead, while discussions are underway with countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and South Korea.
Asked about when mass travel may resume, Mr Poh said: "We anticipate that it will take some time before we can welcome visitors back to experience Singapore in larger numbers."
The tourism board and businesses in the sector have stepped up efforts to engage global audiences online through videos and virtual tours in the meantime, keeping Singapore top of mind for potential future visitors, he added.