Singapore’s international visitor arrivals (IVA) and tourism receipts (TR) reached 330,000 and an estimated $1.9 billion respectively in 2021.
While these numbers represent only a fraction of Singapore’s tourism performance prior to the pandemic, there have been encouraging signs of recovery in the tourism sector, with year-on-year growth in the last three quarters of 2021. The introduction of various travel arrangements, such as Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs), has encouraged the gradual return of international travellers. Domestic consumption has also been strong, as the tourism sector pivoted to develop new and innovative experiences for locals.
Mr Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said: “While it will take time for tourism numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels, we are encouraged by the resilience of our tourism businesses, and their commitment to preserve good jobs, transform their businesses, and invest in new products and experiences. These efforts will strengthen Singapore’s appeal as we prepare to welcome more international visitors.
“We must anticipate setbacks and challenges even as the tourism industry recovers slowly. But I am confident that the tourism industry has learnt from its experiences, and is poised to recapture demand when it returns.”
2021 Tourism Performance
Singapore’s tourism sector recorded overall year-on-year declines in IVA and TR, largely due to the effect of strong tourism performance in the first two months of 2020. IVA increased 221 per cent in the last three quarters of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. TR for the second and third quarter of 2021 is 92 per cent higher than the same period in 2020.
Between January and December 2021, 330,000 international visitors arrived in Singapore. China (88,000), India (54,000) and Indonesia (33,000) were the top three visitor source markets in 2021. As one of Singapore’s top source markets, Malaysia also saw strong demand since the introduction of the air and land Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) between both countries on 29 November 2021.
Between January and September 2021, TR reached $1.2 billion. Visitors from China, Indonesia and India contributed $432 million, $127 million and $58 million in TR (excluding Sightseeing, Entertainment and Gaming) respectively.
Stimulating Domestic Consumption
During this period, the tourism sector adapted to focus on domestic tourism, supported by STB initiatives such as the SingapoRediscovers campaign and the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) scheme, which were both launched in 2020, as well as a range of new partnerships.
By the end of the SRV scheme on 31 December 2021, about 1.9 million Singaporeans have used their vouchers at least once, making about 2.6 million transactions. Close to $300 million in SRV transactions were recorded, comprising close to $180 million in vouchers and about $120 million in out-of-pocket payments for SRV bookings.
Key Industry Performance
Hotels Industry Performance
To appeal to the domestic market, other hotels introduced unique staycation and guest experiences. For example, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore launched the world’s only augmented reality (AR) hotel art tour for visitors to interact virtually with art pieces by globally-renowned artists such as Dale Chihuly and Frank Stella. Grand Hyatt Singapore also partnered with homegrown sports apparel brand Kydra and local organic food producers for its Recharge Wellness Retreat, to cater to the growing demand for sustainability and wellness experiences.
MICE and Leisure Events
The resumption of MICE events picked up pace in 2021, following the introduction of the Safe Business Events Framework in 2020. In 2021, Singapore hosted more than 200 MICE events with almost 50,000 local and international attendees. These included pilot events to testbed new protocols, such as the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific 2021, Milken Institute Asia Summit and the 50th St Gallen Symposium.
STB will continue to build up the pipeline of significant MICE events for 2022 and beyond, including some multi-year events. Notable ones include FIND – Design Fair Asia (2022–2024), Gastech 2023, Global Health Security Conference 2022, 60th International Young Lawyers' Congress 2022, Seafood Expo 2022, SILMO Singapore (2023–2025), transport logistic and air cargo 2023, World One Health Congress 2022 and the World Congress of Dermatology 2023.
Leisure and lifestyle events that STB supported in 2021 included the Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom exhibition at Gardens by the Bay and the international premiere of Pop-Up Disney! A Mickey Celebration. STB also supported the Mobile Legends Bang Bang M3 World Championship in December 2021, and the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa – the first international professional golf tournament in Asia, and first to have corporate hospitality suites in Singapore since the start of the pandemic. STB will expand the range and scale of such lifestyle and leisure events in 2022, to meet local demand and ensure that Singapore remains attractive to international visitors. One example will be the upcoming series of ONE Championship events in 2022.
Tours Industry Performance
The local tours industry performed well in 2021, with close to 320,000 local participants and strong month-on-month growth for most of the year. STB also launched the Tour Experience Innovation Lab (TEIL) and partnered other agencies to encourage the growth of new and innovative tour products.
Under TEIL, STB partnered the National Arts Council (NAC) for the Performing Arts Tours Pilot Grant, to help tour operators and arts practitioners develop innovative performing arts tours. Five new tours were borne out of this pilot grant.
Under TEIL, STB also worked closely with the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) and tour operators to develop a series of sustainability- and heritage-themed tours, SentoSights, which showcase a different side of Sentosa. 10 new SentoSights tours were launched, focusing on heritage, sustainability, marine conservation and biodiversity.
Attractions Industry Performance
The attractions industry worked hard to create new experiences to attract locals. For example, Wild Wild Wet introduced new concepts such as its version of a Songkran Festival, while Kidztopia had special unlimited entry passes to drive weekday demand.
Singapore also welcomed new attractions such as the Museum of Ice Cream and SkyHelix Sentosa. Existing attractions used this period to refresh their offerings or introduce new ones, which included Haw Par Villa’s Hell’s Museum, the Brickosaurs World at Singapore Zoo and River Wonders, ArtScience Museum’s new permanent Virtual Reality (VR) gallery, Madame Tussaud’s Singapore: Marvel Universe display, National Orchid Garden’s Tropical Montane Orchidetum, and Gardens by the Bay’s Orchid Haven.
There is also a series of new attractions in the pipeline. For example, the Jewel-rassic Quest, a ticketed AR experience at Jewel Changi Airport’s Canopy Park and Shiseido Forest Valley, is slated to launch in 2022. Using immersive AR technology, users will be transported 89 million years into the past on a quest, where they will complete activities and interact with dinosaurs along the way.
Cruise Industry Performance
The cruise industry rebounded strongly following the start of “cruises-to-nowhere” in late 2020. In 2021, Singapore’s cruise industry saw over 400,000 domestic passengers set sail on close to 300 cruise sailings.
With the implementation of STB’s CruiseSafe certification programme and strong support from both Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International, there have been no COVID-19 clusters on board the two cruise ships to date.