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Industries adapted to the domestic audience and operating models, while doing their part in the national effort against COVID-19.

Singapore, 1 February 2021 – Despite enduring its toughest year on record, Singapore’s tourism sector has taken strides to reimagine its offerings and experiences, while supporting nationwide efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism-related companies have benefited from various government support measures to transform their products and offerings, while building new capabilities to position themselves for future growth opportunities.

Mr Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said: “Singapore’s tourism sector has had to fight for survival in 2020. Our tourism businesses have displayed immense resilience and adaptability throughout this difficult period, reinventing their business models and leveraging technology to find solutions in a COVID-19 world. I am also grateful for their commitment to keep Singaporeans safe and well. STB remains confident in Singapore’s position as one of the world’s safest and most attractive leisure and business destination, and the long-term prospects of Singapore’s tourism sector. While mass international travel is unlikely to resume in a major way in 2021, STB will continue standing together with our industry partners to prepare for recovery and to start building a better and more sustainable future for tourism.”

Contributing to COVID-19 efforts amid adversity

Due to unprecedented global travel restrictions and border closures, Singapore saw a decline in both visitor arrivals and tourism receipts in 2020. Visitor arrivals (VA) fell by 85.7 per cent in 2020 to reach 2.7 million visitors (nearly all from the first two months of 2020), while tourism receipts (TR) declined by 78.4 per cent to S$4.4 billion in the first three quarters of 2020.

Even during this difficult year, tourism businesses played a key role in Singapore’s battle against COVID-19. Hotels offered their properties for various accommodation purposes, including Government Quarantine Facilities, Swab Isolation Facilities and Stay-Home Notice Dedicated Facilities (SDFs). For example, more than 70 hotels have served as SDFs at various points in since March 2020.  As of 31 December 2020, SDFs have accommodated more than 80,000 Persons on Stay-Home Notice, with the support of over 2,300 frontline workers in the hotels industry.

The Integrated Resorts also contributed in other ways. More than 2,000 Resorts World Sentosa staff served at the Community Care Facility at Singapore EXPO and MAX Atria, and the Big Box warehouse mall. They managed operations, provided meals and packed care kits. Marina Bay Sands donated around 15,000kg of food to The Food Bank and packed 15,000 care kits for migrant workers and low-income families affected by the pandemic.

To help contain the outbreak in migrant worker dormitories earlier last year, the cruise industry provided the world’s first migrant worker dormitory on cruise ships as accommodation for more than 8,200 workers who had recovered from COVID-19. Around 600 cruise industry workers and business partners including Genting Cruise Lines and SATS-Creuers Cruise Services were involved in the operation between April 2020 and September 2020.

Many tourist guides stepped up as Safe Distancing Ambassadors (SDAs), capitalising on their people and language skills to urge compliance to safe management measures (SMMs). Since 7 April 2020, about 150 tourist guides have served in this capacity at tourism precincts, hotels and other tourism establishments. In the coming months, STB expects to grow this group to over 250 SDAs as activities such as business and leisure events gradually resume in Singapore.

Re-opening tourism safely

As Singapore’s economy gradually re-opened in the second half of 2020, the tourism sector faced a new challenge: working out how to resume operations safely while providing meaningful customer experiences. STB engaged industry stakeholders to develop their re-opening proposals and implement the necessary SMMs. As of 25 January 2021, 45 attractions, 270 hotels, and 1,686 tour itineraries have received approval to resume operations.

From November 2020, Singapore also piloted cruises with enhanced safety protocols and no ports of call for two of Singapore’s homeported cruise lines – Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International. To rebuild consumer confidence and demand for cruise, STB established the world’s first CruiseSafe Certification – a mandatory audit and certification programme for cruise lines before they commence sailing. As of 31 December 2020, 33 cruises carrying over 42,000 passengers have been completed with no reported incidents of COVID-19 transmission on board.

Many tourism establishments have also been certified SG Clean, a national mark of excellence that indicates our businesses adhere to high standards of environmental public hygiene on their premises. As of 25 January 2021, STB has issued more than 1,390 SG Clean Quality Mark certificates to tourism-related premises.

Resuming MICE and leisure events

From 1 October 2020, STB began accepting applications for organisers to pilot MICE events of up to 250 attendees. As of 31 December 2020, Singapore has held 29 MICE event pilots, with the first being the Singapore International Energy Week in end October 2020.

Singapore also developed testing protocols for foreign delegates and other visitors arriving for events such as TravelRevive and the ONE Championship events, to safeguard public health. MICE and leisure event organisers also had to adapt, innovate and leverage on technology to reimagine what events would look like in a COVID-19 environment. As a result, a number of lifestyle and sporting events adopted hybrid formats for the first time, from the Singapore Food Festival to the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2020.

Please refer to Annex A for examples of notable MICE and leisure events held in 2020.

Stimulating demand for tourism

With international travel at a standstill, domestic demand became critical to support tourism businesses. In July 2020, STB, Enterprise Singapore and Sentosa Development Corporation rolled out the SingapoRediscovers campaign to rally locals to support tourism businesses and promote hidden gems and experiences in Singapore. As of 31 December 2020, there were 1,145 promotions offered by 213 merchants.  

To complement the SingapoRediscovers campaign, STB launched the S$320 million SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) scheme in December 2020. As of 1 January 2021, over 300,000 Singaporeans had used the SRV scheme to make bookings with Singapore hotels, attractions and tours, spending S$35.9 million in SRV redemptions and out-of-pocket payments.

STB also forged new partnerships with e-commerce players, banks, payment gateways and online travel agents (OTAs), including Visa, DBS, Expedia, Klook, Airbnb Experiences and Mastercard, to promote Singapore tourism offerings, exchange insights and enhance visitor experiences.

Maintaining mindshare

To ensure that Singapore remains top of mind even while travel is curtailed, STB’s regional offices launched new initiatives to engage our fans and strengthen Singapore’s brand image around the world. STB partnered with technology, media and tourism industry players in key source markets to jointly promote Singapore as an attractive destination for future travellers.

Please refer to Annex B for details on STB’s overseas initiatives.

Supporting industry transformation

Since the start of the outbreak, STB has worked closely with industry partners to chart a new path for the tourism sector. In February 2020, the Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC), comprising tourism leaders from both the private and public sectors, was set up to develop and implement joint recovery strategies. TRAC helped to identify opportunities arising from COVID-19, driving and implementing measures to co-create recovery plans and instil confidence in Singapore’s tourism sector.

The Alliance for Action on Enabling Safe and Innovative Visitor Experiences under the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST) [1] was formed to explore and pioneer new ways to facilitate safe and innovative visitor experiences in a COVID-19 environment. Co-led by Mr Lee Seow Hiang of Changi Airport Group and Ms Kwee Wei-Lin of Singapore Hotel Association, the Alliance comprises industry stakeholders and government agencies. It developed its first prototype for safe tradeshows and exhibitions, safe itineraries, as well as digital enablers, which was trialled in November 2020 at TravelRevive. In addition, the Alliance also successfully launched COVID-19 insurance coverage to provide added peace of mind for visitors to Singapore.[2]

Our MICE businesses also took the lead in transforming their own sector. To guide the industry in developing innovative hybrid business models and pathways for new capabilities, the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) collaborated with STB and Enterprise Singapore to launch the Event Industry Resilience Roadmap. This established best-in-class standard for safe business events comes with an industry-led accreditation SG SafeEvent programme[3] that has certified over 200 SG SafeEvent ambassadors.

STB and the Singapore Hotel Association supported the hotels industry’s efforts in upskilling their workers. Compared to 2019, the number of trainees funded under the Training Industry Professionals in Tourism (TIP-iT) scheme more than doubled in 2020. This is testament to our tourism businesses’ commitment to upskill employees to future-proof their workforce. To alleviate manpower challenges and provide job expansion opportunities, the hotels industry, including Grand Hyatt Singapore, PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road and Raffles Hotel, implemented job redesign initiatives to train existing employees in new skills that allowed them to be redeployed to other areas outside of their specialisations.

To accelerate recovery and rebuild for the future, STB unveiled a series of programmes and partnerships in 2020.

In April, a S$20 million Marketing Partnership Programme (MPP) was launched to support marketing efforts by tourism businesses to build demand, alongside the Singapore Stories Content Fund (SGSCF) to encourage content creators to create compelling stories about Singapore. To date, 260 tourism businesses have benefited from the MPP and 20 projects have received funding from the SGSCF.

With support from STB’s various initiatives and grants such as the Business Improvement Fund (BIF) and the TIP-iT scheme, tourism businesses were able to innovate and adapt. STB also developed tools to further accelerate the pace of industry transformation, including the Tourism Transformation Index (TXI), and the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (Stan). To build new digital capabilities, STB partnered digital players such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Airbnb Experiences and Amazon Explore to conduct online Masterclasses or workshops for the tourism industry. Please refer to Annex C for details on initiatives to support innovation and industry transformation. 

Tourism workers and businesses have benefited from economic-wide measures to support jobs and livelihoods impacted by COVID-19. These include rental waivers, property tax rebates and temporary bridging loans.  In 2020, over 7,000 tourism businesses received support through the Job Support Scheme (JSS) to retain local employees. 

STB also provided support to defray third-party professional cleaning costs by tourism-related establishments impacted by COVID-19 cases. As at 31 December 2020, 57 grant applications had been approved. 

Looking ahead              

Even with the development of several vaccines, it will take time for mass leisure travel and traveller confidence to return. Therefore, we expect tourism arrivals and tourism receipts to remain weak in 2021.

In 2021, STB will continue to support quality tourism businesses to sustain key capabilities and build new ones, and to innovate in order to meet evolving consumer needs and emerging travel trends once cross-border travel resumes in a significant way.

STB will also continue to support local jobs and create opportunities for the industry to thrive in the new environment by encouraging domestic advocacy and building domestic demand.

Annex A - MICE and lesisure events in 2020

TravelRevive– powered by ITB Asia & STB

Significant moves have been made to resume large-scale international MICE events with TravelRevive– powered by ITB Asia & STB in November 2020. This was the first major international travel tradeshow to take place physically in Asia Pacific in the current COVID-19 environment, with local as well as foreign attendees and exhibitors. It saw close to 1,000 local and international on-site attendees, of which 65 were foreign attendees from 14 countries in Asia, Middle East and Europe, as well as over 450 virtual attendees. Three MICE MOUs were also inked during TravelRevive, to set up two Regional Headquarters and launch a new event in Singapore. Such collaborations are a boost to the MICE industry and demonstrate that international event organisers remain confident in Singapore’s position as a Global-Asia node for MICE, and as launchpad for regional expansion. STB and SACEOS co-organised the Singapore MICE Forum (SMF) and MICE Connect as well, bringing together industry leaders to discuss the latest developments in the Singapore MICE and events industry.

Milken Institute Asia Summit

The Milken Institute Asia Summit took place from 8 to 10 December 2020. The physical event on 9 December attracted 183 delegates, including 19 foreign attendees from India, UK, US, and the Philippines.


ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES was the first international sports production pilot involving international professional fighters to take place in Singapore behind closed doors. Following this, ONE’s Inside the Matrix on 30 October 2020 was the first sporting event with a live audience of 250 spectators, and was among the first to pilot the use of COVID-19 antigen rapid tests.

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2020

The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2020, held from 27 November to 6 December, adopted a hybrid race format that included a virtual race experience with augmented reality routes that showcased the best of Singapore’s iconic sights. The Grand Finale drew more than 12,000 participants, with virtual participants from close to 70 countries.

Singapore Food Festival (SFF)

STB introduced the first virtual Singapore Food Festival (SFF), bringing on board more than 25 F&B partners with a line-up of live masterclasses featuring local and award-winning chefs representing Singapore’s finest F&B establishments, virtual food tours, SFF food merchandise and limited-edition food bundles. It saw over 500,000 unique viewers around the world, and won two awards at the Marketing Events Awards 2020 for Best Content Creation for a Virtual Event (Gold) and Best Virtual Event (Bronze).

Christmas on A Great Street

Towards the year-end, the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) staged its much-loved annual Christmas on A Great Street event on Orchard Road as a hybrid Christmas Light-Up. For the first time, visitors from around the world could enjoy the dazzling display of lights and decorations both physically and virtually through a 360 drive-through experience of the Christmas lights. The virtual experience drew more than 210,000 viewers.

Christmas Wonderland 2020

Christmas Wonderland 2020 at Gardens by the Bay also returned in a hybrid format. The physical event, titled the Walk of Lights, featured eight stunning light installations, complemented by a virtual experience with interactive activities, performances, and festive shopping. More than 100,000 people attended the physical event and its virtual Christmas world received more than 1.5 million views.


Annex B - Initiatives by STB's regional offices


In the US, Conde Nast Travel (CNT) recognised Singapore as the first global destination for their New Standard for travel. STB Americas reached over 33 million US and Canadian viewers through custom-curated content across CNT’s print, digital and social channels, extending Singapore’s credibility as a safe and exciting travel destination. Together with Phil Rosenthal, host of Netflix’s top-rated food and travel programme Somebody Feed Phil, STB Americas also organised virtual meet-and-greet sessions for 400 top-tier US media, influencers, travel trade, and devoted foodie and explorer fans. During the sessions, Phil reminisced with Singaporean personalities such as Tan Kheng Hua, Chef Bjorn Shen and KF Seetoh on the Singapore episode, as he enthusiastically promoted the city’s vibrant food culture and modern architectural feats.


STB’s European offices rolled out various marketing campaigns across the region. A collaboration with UK influencer collective Captivate (a collective of 10 lifestyle bloggers and influencers) to promote the Passion Tribes, saw the campaign reach 2.4 million viewers.  In France, together with six influencers, a TikTok challenge was launched to engage the early careers segment, challenging creators to recreate pouring teh tarik in creative ways. A partnership with German creative company ArtNight to organise an online workshop with Singaporean artist Paul Wang also promoted the arts and culture scene in Singapore to German audiences.

Greater China

STB signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with Group and iQIYI International in November 2020 to jointly market Singapore as a destination of choice for travellers over the next three years. To maintain Singapore’s destination mindshare in China, STB partnered with Xiaomi on a co-branding campaign with a mix of online and offline initiatives - including Singapore-branded delivery boxes with handmade toys of Singapore icons, and a collection of Singapore food recipes created for Xiaomi’s smart home app. In partnership with Tencent, STB rolled out several campaigns that leveraged new technologies and gamification to engage younger audiences. For example, Singapore elements were introduced into the Limxiu app, which allows users to create 3D avatars and design their virtual homes. In another campaign on their face-swapping app Pitu, users could transform into Peranakan characters. In August 2020, STB also launched A Singapore Feast in Taiwan with 11 F&B brands to profile Singapore food and culture, with Singapore-themed menus, products and promotions rolled out across Taiwan.


In India, STB was among the first National Tourism Organisations to engage consumers with a virtual event – Zomaland@Home. Partnering with Zomato, the leading Indian restaurant aggregator and food delivery service, STB was the destination partner for the weekend virtual festival, with a Singapore Experience Zone that featured live sessions with Singaporean artistes and engaging games. STB India also collaborated with BookMyShow, India’s leading entertainment ticketing platform, to give users a glimpse of the iconic culture and beauty of Singapore. This was through a four-part web series celebrating creativity across various art forms, including film-making, music, food and comedy, featuring candid conversations between renowned artists across India and Singapore.  The web series garnered 1.4 million views in its first month. Reaching out to families, STB was the country partner for two editions of Windmill Festival 2020, a virtual event for children, where there was an Experience Zone with Singapore tourism stakeholders.

North Asia

Our STB office in Japan partnered with JTB Corporation to launch a series of 60-minute virtual tours around Singapore called Get a Feeling of Overseas Travel at Home. The chargeable tours featured Singapore-based Japanese YouTuber, Ghib Ojisan, who entertained guests as they explored Singapore with a JTB tourist guide. Guests also received Singapore-themed souvenir packs delivered to their homes as part of the multi-sensory experience.


As part of STB’s strategy to appeal to foodies, STB Oceania launched a brand campaign to introduce zi char to Australians in March 2020. The key component was a chef collaboration between Sydney’s Brent Savage from Cirrus Dining, and Singapore’s Wayne Liew from Keng Eng Kee.  The PR activation at Cirrus Dining commenced with a Media-Trade evening on 2 March, followed by three consumer nights. Due to overwhelming demand, a five-week extension was planned from 6 March to 12 April 2020, though this ended earlier than planned due to COVID containment measures in Sydney at the time. The activation was supported by media buys with content partner Urban List, on digital, social and Out-of-Home (OOH) platforms.

Southeast Asia

Within Southeast Asia, STB launched a TravelThrowBack initiative to encourage people to share their photos of their travels to Singapore as well as the rest of Southeast Asia. The initiative, which ran from July to mid-October 2020, reached more than 21 million social media users to inspire the region to plan trips to Singapore when it is safe to travel again.


Annex C - Initiatives to support inovation and transformation

Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Job Redesign Reskilling Programme

Grand Hyatt Singapore has committed to redesigning jobs and upgrading the skills of 10 of its employees as the hotel embarks on technological transformation. This includes the implementation of an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) to automate the placement of banquet tables; this provided the opportunity for five staff to be upskilled to become bartenders. PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road on the other hand, has put in place an in-house training programme to provide lateral training and provide redeployment opportunities for 66 associates in various departments, including Banquet, F&B, Engineering, Front Office, Housekeeping, Kitchen, Stewarding and Security. The hotel also has plans to further streamline the roles of Bellman, Concierge and Front Office to achieve higher manpower productivity by focusing on guest engagement and adoption of technology. Employees in these positions will be trained and certified to perform all three roles by end 2021. Raffles Hotel also tapped the programme to equip their engineering staff with new skills to take on new roles in other departments, including Shift Operations, Mechanical and Electrical (Kitchen and Laundry) and Audio Visual, while continuing to contribute well to the organisation.

Business Improvement Fund (BIF)

Tourism businesses could tap this fund to redesign their business processes and improve productivity. For example, iFly Singapore will use the funds to implement a facial recognition and QR code scanning system to automate guest registrations, check-ins and the purchase of photos and videos. Informa Tech has also used the fund to pivot ConnecTechAsia (CTA), one of Singapore’s top 5 largest trade shows, to an online event. The BIF-supported virtual exhibition with AI business matching solutions enabled close to 7,000 attendees to network virtually and engage in live keynotes and Q&A. More than 300 exhibitors also showcased their products on a virtual exhibition floor.

Businesses also used the fund to adopt innovative solutions to enhance cleanliness and hygiene standards. For example, Copthorne King’s Hotel Singapore is implementing a Smart AI & IOT Security Access Control to allow the hotel team to remotely control balcony doors within guestrooms to reduce transmission risk. The hotel also adopted an Antimicrobial Anti-Viral Coating solution that reduces the time needed to clean and disinfect high touch and common areas by coating these touchpoints with an enhanced self-cleaning photocatalytic surface treatment, which eliminates common bacteria and viruses. Also, GP Hotel Management is implementing a contactless temperature screening system with facial recognition capabilities across their 23 hotels under the Fragrance Hotel, ibis budget and Parc Sovereign brands in Singapore.

Training Industry Professionals in Tourism (TIP-iT)

The scheme supported tourism businesses to upgrade and upskill their workers. Compared to 2019, the number of trainees funded under TIP-iT more than doubled in 2020. This is testament to our tourism businesses’ commitment to upskill employees to future-proof their workforce. For example, Park Hotel Group tapped the scheme to upskill 458 staff and improve service standards across its properties, F&B outlets and corporate office. STB granted 132 SkillsFuture Study Awards to employees in the tourism sector in 2020, which was a two-fold increase compared to 63 awards given in 2019. This demonstrated that employees in the tourism sector are committed to developing and deepening emerging and specialist skills as part of our resilient workforce.

Tourism Transformation Index (TXI)

The Tourism Transformation Index (TXI) is a self-diagnostic tool for companies to assess their strength and weaknesses pertaining to digital transformation and benchmark themselves amongst industry peers.  To date, 105 tourism companies have benefited from TXI, which included receiving tailored recommendations to programmes that can advance the state of their company’s digital transformation.

Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (Stan)

The Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (Stan) was launched to help industry stakeholders tap data to guide their business decisions.  Businesses in the tourism industry can use Stan to conduct data visualisations, analysis, exchange and collaborate on data analytics projects with other industry stakeholders. Armed with deeper consumer insights, they will be able to make data-driven decisions to tailor their marketing, products and services to serve customers’ needs.

Data Analytics SHift Programme (DASH)

The Data Analytics SHift Programme (DASH) was launched to upskill the industry in data analytics. DASH helps local tourism companies build their capability in data, so as to improve business performance in a structured and sustainable manner. Representatives from participating companies will be trained in digital transformation and data analytics skills, and then supported in planning and implementing data projects within their companies. 10 companies have participated in the DASH programme to date.

STB Marketing College

The STB Marketing College partnered key digital players such as Facebook, Google and LinkedIn to develop web-based training for the tourism industry. STB also developed an online Masterclass series with industry experts to share business insights and best practices to engage customers. From April to December 2020, the webinars drew more than 5,800 participants across 20 sessions.

Singapore Tourism Accelerator

Through the Singapore Tourism Accelerator programme, STB has supported companies to develop quality solutions and pilot them with our tourism industry players. The first two cohorts have produced 21 pilots, and 10 more are currently in progress for the third cohort.

[1] The Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST) was formed under the Future Economy Council (FEC) to review how Singapore can stay economically resilient and build new sources of dynamism to emerge stronger from COVID-19. The EST is co-chaired by Minister for National Development, Mr Desmond Lee and Group CEO of PSA International, Mr Tan Chong Meng, and comprises members from various sectors, including businesses and trade associations and chambers.

[2] AIG Asia Pacific Insurance Pte. Ltd., Chubb Insurance Singapore Limited and HL Assurance Pte. Ltd., have developed travel insurance products which provide at least S$30,000 in coverage for Covid-19 related medical treatment and hospitalisation costs.

[3] The programme will be extended to enterprises in the venues, organisers and supplier segments in 2021. To help business owners to build agility in their business models, SACEOS also introduced a business model assessment tool and masterclasses. Together with Workforce Singapore, SkillsFuture Singapore, NTUC, STB & SACEOS jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Capability Building Network on a roadmap for MICE workforce transformation.