Singapore Tourism Board has assured cruise industry stakeholders that it will continue to stand by them during this challenging time, in a letter of support issued by Chief Executive Mr Keith Tan.
“The last few weeks have been incredibly difficult, especially for the cruise industry,” acknowledged Mr Tan. “We are tackling business concerns while trying to adapt to the various measures being adopted around the world to combat COVID-19.”
He continued, “We are supporting our partners and clients, without compromising on their health and safety. And we are keeping our spirits up, even as we prepare for a long period of uncertainty.”
The letter also assured that port closure measures are temporary, with Mr Tan stressing that enhanced support will be provided to stakeholders.
“We will bounce back stronger than ever when the situation improves,” he concluded. “The growth potential in Asia remains exceptionally high, and the fundamentals that make cruising in this part of the world so attractive has not changed.”
Following the ceasing of all port calls in Singapore, the country’s port continues to be closed indefinitely.
Port traffic is reportedly down 52%, and the port was closed after the country allowed the Costa Fortuna to dock as part of a scheduled call after Thailand and Malaysia had turned it away.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said of the ship’s passengers: “They had arrived in Singapore, and then they embarked on a cruise from Singapore with the intention to come back to Singapore,” he said.
Ms Annie Chang, Director, Cruise, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) told ASEAN cruise news: “This (plans to re-open) will be reviewed regularly as the global situation continues to evolve.”
She adds that the COVID-19 outbreak has had an unprecedented impact on the cruise industry, both in Singapore and globally.
“Cruise lines have decided to reduce or stop ship sailings while several ports in the region, including Singapore, have already closed or imposed restrictions,” she says. “This has severely impacted itinerary planning and operations for cruise lines.”
Elaborating on specific support measures for stakeholders, Chang highlighted the role of Singapore’s Cruise Development Fund. The Cruise Development Fund provides support for cruise lines, including those with homeported ships in Singapore, and in-market travel agents, in their cruise marketing efforts in Singapore and overseas.
“We will be offering enhanced support to those who have committed to Singapore deployments through Cruise Development Fund partnerships, and will also be improving the reimbursement process to make it easier and faster for partners to receive funds to ease their cashflow, “said Chang.
The government will also enhance and extend the Jobs Support Scheme, to provide more impactful and sustained wage support. Under this scheme, cruise lines and cruise terminal operators will receive 75 per cent of wage support for local employees.
Additionally, STB will continue to support cruise vessels that require marine services such as bunkering, resupply and repairs in the Port of Singapore, at anchorage. In light of the current port closure, relief measures will be implemented to support cruise terminals as well.
The agency is also working closely with the National Environment Agency (NEA) and other government agencies to roll out the “SG Clean” campaign – which aims to reassure the public that local businesses including cruise terminals maintain high standards of cleanliness and sanitation.
“The above forms of support are on top of the S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package announced last month, which includes assistance to help local tourism companies, including cruise terminals, affected by the outbreak,” said Chang. “We are exploring options and assessing if further support is required for the cruise industry, with more details to be shared in time to come.”
As for recovery efforts for the industry, Chang noted that STB will focus on the following:
- Supporting the cruise lines who have invested in Singapore.
- Strengthening consumer demand to bring up healthy occupancy and yields for the ships.
- Skilling up cruise agents to sell cruise packages effectively. “We are exploring how we can leverage on this downtime to ramp up training and accreditation for travel agents,” explained Chang. “Given that 80 percent of cruise packages in the region are sold through travel agents, and cruise is a nascent product, this would be a good opportunity for travel agents to skill up.”
- Galvanizing regional governments on restoring popular SEA itineraries in the recovery phase.\
“We are ensuring operational and infrastructural readiness of terminal operators in preparation for recovery,” she added. “With the eventual opening of the terminal, we will work with the cruise lines to assure consumers that cruising out of Singapore is safe based on stringent measures in place.”
The Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC), comprising tourism leaders from both the private and public sectors, was also set up last month to implement joint recovery strategies. TRAC will work to instil confidence in Singapore’s tourism sector, including helping homeported cruises.
Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Dream Cruises have expressed their appreciation for STB’s support.
“As a longstanding partner of STB through our fly-cruise marketing collaborations, it is heartening to see the proactive support coming from its chief executive Keith Tan, extending help and giving confidence to affected cruise lines for everyone to get back on track,” said Royal Caribbean. “We greatly appreciate and will explore the resources offered by STB, working closely with them towards recovery.”
Likewise, Dream Cruises will work with STB to actively map out cruise recovery plans.
“We are truly grateful and highly appreciative of the measures administered by STB to grow the industry, and inspire more cruise passengers to come experience the beauty of Asia through Dream Cruises,” said Mr Micheal Goh, President, Dream Cruises & Head of International Sales.
He continued, “Just like how the ships have navigated through rough weathers, this is the time for our regional counterparts to work hand in hand to brave through the storms and emerge stronger than before.”