SINGAPORE – Although Vaccinated Traffic Corridors (VTLs) have largely benefited the tourism scene here, their ripple effects are not yet evenly distributed.
Some tourism players are seeing a stronger rebound in business travel here, while leisure travel is still slow to return.
Singapore Hotel Association chairman Kwee Wei-Lin said hotels here have seen healthy arrivals from the United States, Europe and Australia.
“We are seeing a bigger rebound for business travel. Based on the current security management measures, it is more favorable for visitors who need to be in Singapore for business meetings,” said Ms. Kwee, adding that Singapore’s Covid-19 rules make visitor leisure experiences less interesting.
The silver lining is that the average length of stay has increased beyond two to three nights, compared to 2019 figures, she said.
Ms. Rivero Delgado, regional vice president of Singapore, Malaysia and the Maldives for Marriott International, said business trips were coming in from the United States and Australia, and increasingly from countries like India.
“Today we see business travel returning to 25% of pre-pandemic levels and we expect this to slowly increase as traveler confidence returns,” she said, adding that although there have also been signs of leisure travel, this is making a slower comeback.
Marina Bay Sands said it also saw an overall increase in bookings in its main leisure markets and saw increased interest in business travel.
Hotel chain The Garcha Group said occupancy at its hotels has increased by 10% since the launch of VTLs, although these are mainly business travellers.
Chairman Satinder Garcha said the chain hopes to see more tourists as it has yet to see many leisure travelers.
The occupancy of its hotels, including the Vagabond Club, remains low and the additional income brought in by the VTLs is not enough to cover the costs.
He said: “As there is a pent-up demand for travel by Singaporeans, we are starting to see more and more Singaporeans considering overseas travel as global travel rules ease, but we don’t yet see equal demand for travelers to Singapore.”
Relaxing group size limits and allowing travelers to enter regardless of origin are steps authorities can take to help attract more people here, he added.
The lack of leisure travelers may hit some players harder, such as attractions and tour operators that are more dependent on leisure travel.
Dr Kevin Cheong, chairman of the Association of Singapore Attractions, said VTLs have mainly attracted business travelers, as well as visiting friends and relatives. Attractions, which are still trying to contain costs, are not experiencing a significant increase in tourist numbers.
“Tourism and travel will resume, but the question is when will we see significant levels of recovery that will impact our bottom line and cash flow?” he said.
He added that it would be counterproductive to attract visitors here while imposing restrictions on their meals and movement.