Looking ahead to the future of Singapore’s tourism industry

The Singapore Tourism Board saw an 85.7% decrease in visitor arrivals in 2020.

The tourism industry is on its way to a gradual recovery, following a sharp downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of a nationwide circuit breaker.

According to the data from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Singapore saw an 85.7% decrease in visitor arrivals in 2020 whilst tourism receipts fell 78.4% in the first three quarters of the same year.

“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,” STB chief executive Keith Tan said.

Despite the huge drop, Tan said the tourism board is confident that Singapore is still one of the world’s safest and most attractive leisure and business destinations.

“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,” he said.

Meanwhile, travel organisation OMT Group spokesperson James Lee noted that since there are no inflows or outflows in the industry at the height of the pandemic, the economy is inevitably affected.

“It is greatly impacted because the travel industry has always been the interaction among the cross borders of different countries. Unfortunately, the borders have to stop and close, thereby hindering that interaction,” Lee said.

He added that it is essential to have an open mind in preparing for the reopening of borders and supporting the industry and the people amidst challenges in tourism.

“We really need to look at how we actually create that sustainability within the whole domestic travel as well at least until this whole pandemic blows past us,” he said.

Moving into the digital space

With travel agencies and organisations like OMT Group being impacted by the pandemic, reliance on technologies have proven to be necessary.

However, Lee described that over the years and even before the pandemic, the evolving technology and how businesses transact have pushed the travel industry to use different technologies to solve the industry’s pain points.

These trends have allowed OMT Group to remodel its business in adapting to the global health crisis.

“We actually kind of like reaching out to be able to build that foundation right now, and when the pandemic passes us by, we are able to take on this role to enhance that user experience directly with consumers as well,” Lee said.

Lee added that what the group is looking at doing is to build onto the blockchain technology, and how such can be used to create seamless and decentralised facilitation of the data.

Moreover, travel organisations that are having difficulty in catching up should build on the technology shift.

“It’s the time that they have to start looking at what is a good platform that they can actually ride on, and create that collaborative effort to be able to allow them to stay relevant, to plug into that whole entire platform that allows them to continue operation and build on future growth of this industry,” Lee mentioned.

OMT Group also plans on introducing a travel solution through a mobile app to address its pain point on low margin.

“How we want to write on blockchain technology is by providing this so-called ecosystem that we are able to then outreach directly to consumers, and that means not just as a B2B business model that we are already doing,” Lee said.

Once the development is done, the organisation plans on decentralising and distributing the app to the masses by linking it with the group’s partners in different markets.

‘Travel industry will never die’

With the borders reopening, the tourism and travel industry might see a brighter year.

Lee mentioned that the travel industry is one of the things everyone will turn on to, as it “will never die.” He also said that OMT Group aims to be one of the key players to shape the future of the travel industry, together with like-minded collaborations and those having the same objectives.

“What our mission really going out there to do is to create the ability to have seamless transactions between the suppliers and the customers alike by allowing that full transparency and also driving profitability in all of the stakeholders,” Lee said.

He added that having the necessary resources will be crucial in working together for the industry to recover, and that is what the group has been trying to do.

“Let’s strike that business together and work together so that we can actually position ourselves better to take advantage of that rebound of this industry,” he said.

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