Singapore – Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Wednesday (July 22) that job losses in the Singapore tourism industry were “inevitable” without the resumption of mass-market travel.
Speaking in a virtual dialogue with more than 600 tourism industry players, Mr Chan said, “Without the resumption of mass-market travel, we have to be realistic that the headwinds mean the challenges in the coming months will be severe and it will be inevitable that some segment of our industry will have to retrench, to let go of the workers in the short term as we rebuild new offerings,” reported channelnewsasia.com.
Singapore’s tourism industry came to a halt as the number of visitors plummeted. According to a brand health survey conducted in April by Singapore’s Tourism Board, only 24 per cent of travellers across 14 key markets felt confident to travel internationally while only 33 per cent felt confident to visit Singapore. In May, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation noted that the number of international tourists would decline by up to 78 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, said Mr Chan, as global confidence in safe travel, particularly flights, have not stabilised.
There were 880 visitors in May, which was a year-on-year decrease of 99.9 per cent. As a result, Resorts World Sentosa, one of Singapore’s largest tourism employers, retrenched workers last week to cut costs. Meanwhile, others in the tourism and aviation sectors entered new roles such as becoming safe distancing ambassadors or switched industries such as healthcare or education. Despite Singapore’s “small market” Mr Chan reassured everyone that were sufficient jobs for Singaporeans. “The question is, how do we quickly re-skill them for those jobs that are still available … we are committed to make sure that we spend the next few months and years to put in the resources to help Singaporean workers re-skill themselves and take on these other jobs while we await the recovery of the tourism sector,” he said.
Difficult to resume air travel without a vaccine
Mr Chan also mentioned that the current situation would persist for some time, thus he urged businesses in the industry to “reinvent themselves.” Without a vaccine, he perceived restrictions on air travel and social interactions would remain. “My own personal sense is that really without a vaccine, really without a rapid test, it is very difficult for us to imagine the resumption of air travel as what we were used to in the past,” said Mr Chan. “We will have to learn to live in a Covid world for the foreseeable future.”
It is the Government’s “immediate priority” to save as many jobs and businesses as possible said Mr Chan, but noted that such support measures are not sustainable in the long term. The relief packages and schemes have cost close to S$100 billion and have helped more than 7,000 business in tourism and provided more than 1,600 self-employed tour guides with wage support, he said.
Mr Chan urged the tourism sector to redesign their business model as their existing markets may not return for the next year or two.
Members from the online community shared varying reactions to Mr Chan’s statement, with many noting this was the “sad reality” yet would be difficult for businesses to change models or workers to re-skill themselves. Others commented they were well-aware of the situation and provided suggestions.