SINGAPORE: Singapore needs to manage the risks – not eliminate them entirely – as the country prepares to reopen for travel, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Wednesday (Nov 25).
"Shutting ourselves off from the world is not an option," Mr Chan said in a speech at the TravelRevive trade show. "Singapore is unable to tap on a large local population or domestic travel to sustain our tourism sector."
It is also not realistic to expect to eliminate all the risks of reopening, he said.
“Learning how to manage risks will thus be a far more productive approach, and place us in good stead as we never know what will be the next crisis that might hit us, or what will be the next virus that might disrupt air travel.”
COVID-19 has been “especially hard-hitting” for countries without a large domestic market like Singapore.
But the outbreak has also given countries like Singapore the impetus to reinvent themselves, said Mr Chan.
“We are not waiting for the vaccine to arrive. Nor are we waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to blow over. Instead, we are establishing the foundations now and getting started on the journey to reinvent and rebuild the industry.”
Global travel “will never be the same again” even after COVID-19, he said. But changes to the way people travel and how events are conducted were "already on the horizon" before the pandemic.
With digitalisation, many businesses were re-evaluating the need to travel for routine operations. The move towards sustainability also saw many travellers consider if there were more environmentally friendly ways to fulfil their desire for new experiences, said the minister.
The COVID-19 outbreak accelerated the move towards digitalisation and sustainability, and added the need for health security, “over and above physical security and comfort”.
“Therein lies the opportunity for us all," said Mr Chan. "Whoever can ensure visitors’ health security in a faster and better way will gain a competitive advantage. Singapore recognises this and has every intention to be amongst the leading lights in this area.
“If any country in the world has the incentive and the drive to get the formula for reinvention right, Singapore must be one of the front-runners.”
Beyond resuming travel safely, Singapore will pioneer several things to “lead the reinvention” of global travel, especially in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry, said the Trade and Industry Minister.
Safe travel protocols and event protocols have been put in place. This includes pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 tests, the TraceTogether system and the Event Industry Resilience Roadmap launched last month, he added.
TravelRevive is the first major international travel trade show to take place in Asia Pacific since COVID-19, trialling the newly developed hybrid event trade show prototype for safe business events.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and ITB Asia said close to 1,000 local and international attendees will attend the event, with safe management measures and crowd density controls in place.
The tourism authority is working with industry stakeholders on a framework to guide tourism businesses in developing safe itineraries, to prepare for the phased resumption of leisure travel, the press release said.
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“Safe itineraries have been specially curated for all delegates to offer them an assurance of safety, and cater experiences that are authentic, bespoke and personalised,” said the release.
These include virtual tours with hands-on activities that delegates can participate in from their hotel rooms. Delegates can also take part in private museum visits and even a guided visit to a kelong fish farm.
Changi Airport Group has also developed an online tool called the Safe Travel Concierge. This helps travellers manage their visits by customising a travel checklist of pre-entry requirements to fulfil before entering Singapore.
Mr Chan said the Government will support the travel industry in "reimagining the entire visitor experience".
“We are doing all this not just to return to the previous status quo. We are going to ... bring new players together, set new standards for the industry and to develop a whole new experience for people to come to Singapore for leisure, for MICE and for business,” he said.