27 March 2020
My Dear Friends in Tourism,
It has been two months since our battle against COVID-19 started. Our world has changed quickly and at this point – when we are fighting to save lives and livelihoods – I have to acknowledge that this is the biggest challenge that Singapore tourism has faced in its 56-year history.
Last month, I spoke about how we expect international visitor arrivals to decline between 25 and 30 percent this year. We now know that the impact will be much greater, as travel has come to a standstill around the world and our customers are staying home.
I feel the pain of every job that is lost and every business that has had to downsize or close down. But these are losses that we have to accept. The health and safety of our staff and our loved ones must come first, which is why we took painful but necessary steps last week - to restrict the arrival of all short-term visitors, and to lay down safe distancing measures that tourism businesses have to comply with.
Some of you have expressed your concerns about these measures to my colleagues and I in STB. We hear you, but to break the cycle of virus transmission in Singapore, we are counting on you to stand up as responsible tourism businesses and individuals.
In the meantime, our focus is to help you and save as many jobs as possible. In the additional relief measures for the economy announced yesterday (https://go.gov.sg/resiliencebudget), we have expanded our support for tourism on all fronts: from jobs and training, to loans and grants as well as waivers and rebates. There is also $90m for our recovery efforts when the situation improves.
The recovery may seem far away now. But we must continue to prepare for it, even as we keep businesses afloat. Invest in training and product development if you can. Use the downtime to rethink your strategies and supply chains. Protect your brand and continue to engage your customers, even if they are not here.
Above all, stay resilient. I have been moved by the many stories of tourism businesses coming forward, not just to support tourism measures and safe distancing, but to do our part in other areas like housing displaced workers, helping healthcare workers and raising hygiene levels as part of SG Clean.
This is the strength and passion that will get us through this challenge, which will define our tourism industry for years to come. I am proud to be part of this family, and I have no doubt we will overcome this together.