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The Big Read: Want to spend weeks on a tropical island? Singapore aims to shed ‘stopover’ tag amid changes in tourism market

He added that regional tourists, such as those from Indonesia and Vietnam, are returning, but they have not done so in large groups either.

Before the pandemic, China was the biggest source of tourists to Singapore, with 3.6 million of them visiting here in 2019. Indonesia was in second place, with 3.1 million visitors in 2019.

Mr Foo of Oriental Travel and Tours said most of his agency’s tourists now come from Europe and the United States.

“Before, there were a lot of tourists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong that we don’t see coming to Singapore now,” he said.

With tourism here set to pick up, businesses will have to learn to adapt to longer-term changes in order to profit, experts said.

Deloitte’s Mr Walton said attractions that are “primarily aimed at international visitors”, such as the Big Buses and Duck Tours which introduce foreign visitors to the city, as well as casinos, will continue to see a slow recovery initially in as mass tourism. won’t be coming back anytime soon.

He added that some attractions commonly visited by Asian visitors are “very different from those visited by European and American tourists”.

“Having fewer Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and Filipino tourists will have a greater economic impact on those places, such as the shops at Marina Bay Sands, which previously had a throng of shoppers as they were part of these package tours,” Mr. Walton said.

Mr. Benjamin Cassim, Lecturer in Hospitality and Tourism Management at Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Business, noted that Singapore used to serve as a stopover for visitors planning to explore tourist destinations in the region.

“The current level of attractiveness of these neighboring sites to visitors impacts their decision to visit Singapore,” he said.

ASA’s Dr Cheong said that currently tourists may not see Singapore as a stopover to other countries in the region due to different COVID-19 protocols which make it complicated and expensive for travelers to visit several countries. This may cause them to avoid the region and Singapore altogether.

According to data platform Statista, the average length of stay for an inbound traveler in Singapore in 2019 was 3.36 nights. Last year, the average length of stay for an inbound traveler was 22.42 nights.

The website noted that this was due to global travel disruptions due to COVID-19, which led to longer lengths of stay abroad due to mandatory quarantine periods, for example.

Earlier this week, tourists surveyed by TODAY said they were staying in Singapore longer than they would before the pandemic for a variety of reasons.

Mrs. Charlotte Scharpenack from Germany is on a two-week vacation in Singapore with her husband. On a previous trip here, the 26-year-old, who works in telecommunications, had only spent a week here and had spent the second week traveling to other places in Southeast Asia .

They intended to do the same for this trip, but decided against it given the different testing requirements and documentation in various countries.

Still, the couple found there were a surprising number of attractions to explore in Singapore.

“We actually found out more about Singapore, we went to Lazarus Island, where we had never been before, and even took a holiday to Sentosa,” Ms Scharpenack said.

With longer stays becoming the norm, Dr Cheong said Singapore needed to reposition itself as a ‘single destination’ holiday.

For that to happen, it will be important for the tourism sector to work together and deliver a “holistic, multi-dimensional experience”, he said.

For example, ASA will need to work with tour operators and travel agencies on how to better organize longer itineraries for tourists.

“If we do it successfully and well, the length of stay can compensate for the drop in the number of (visitors), as the quality of stay increases,” he said.


With ongoing changes in the tourism landscape, authorities have sought to differentiate Singapore as a tourist destination from other competitors who have also recently reopened their borders.

The initiatives include plans to position the city as an “urban wellness haven”, which aims to “enhance the discoverability of Singapore’s wellness offerings, or (its) wellness quotient”.

Among the planned activities is a 10-day Wellness Festival in Singapore in June, focusing on wellness and mindfulness. STB also plans to leverage Singapore’s identity as a “city in nature”, referring to the government’s vision of creating a livable and sustainable home for the people by increasing green spaces.

Responding to TODAY’s questions, Ms Ong Ling Lee, STB’s Executive Director for Sports and Wellness, said the tourism board has developed “various strategies and initiatives to realize our wellness ambition , taking advantage of Singapore’s existing strengths in accessibility, technology and as a strong business hub.”

She added that Singapore’s wellness offerings are “multifaceted” and include mental, physical and emotional wellbeing as well as lifestyle experiences.

For example, STB launched a year-long partnership with fitness company ClassPass last year, which typically offers yoga, gym, and meditation classes, among other activities.

This collaboration means that ClassPass’ range of wellness experiences will be extended to activities such as traditional Chinese medicine and mental wellness services such as personal coaching and sound healing therapy.

“We welcome ideas that can help Singapore strengthen itself in the wellness tourism space and encourage more creative partnerships between industry players in the wellness and tourism sector, in order to differentiate our offers, experiences and events from the rest of the world,” Ms Ong said. .

In line with the plan, Deloitte’s Mr Walton said Singapore is in a good position to differentiate itself from other well-known places as wellness-focused getaways.

“Singapore may be more expensive for these wellness and sustainable activities than Phuket and Bali, but it does have some advantages such as safety and personal security, especially in terms of responding to COVID-19, which will make people more comfortable visiting,” he said. mentioned.

ASA’s Dr. Cheong reiterated that the concept of wellness has many facets. “It doesn’t always have to be about spas and massages, another form of wellness is outdoor activities, immersion in nature, and I think Singapore is well placed for that.” he said.

Green spaces such as MacRitchie Reservoir, St John’s Island and even Park Connector Networks can be seen as spaces that promote well-being, he noted. “This is an opportunity to reintroduce a part of Singapore that most visitors have never seen from this perspective, as we have always been known to be a cosmopolitan city,” he added.