By Rebecca Rachel Wong
The Covid-19 outbreak has undoubtedly affected overall confidence in travel, including Singapore’s tourism sector. According to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the number of tourist arrivals this year is predicted to fall around 25 to 30 percent due to the outbreak.
The cruise sector is no exception. More than 10 lines have also cancelled cruise itineraries in Asia, with some skipping Singapore as a port of call.
Despite the dip in numbers, Ms Annie Chang, Director, Cruise, Singapore Tourism Board, is optimistic that the local and regional cruise industry can bounce back. She also expresses confidence that cruise performance will pick up in the long run.
“We have had many years of good growth, which underlines Singapore’s strong foundation as a cruise hub,” says Chang. “From 2015 to 2019, the compound annual growth rate of cruise throughput stood at 15.6 per cent. Last year, our foreign cruise throughput grew 3.5 per cent despite supply constraints, with strong in-market demand from mid and long-haul markets.”
Additionally, Singapore’s diverse portfolio of cruise brands and markets puts it firmly on the road of recovery.
Singapore receives a diversity of ships by cruise lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Dream Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and TUI Cruises, Chang notes. These cruise lines source globally from regional markets such as Indonesia and Malaysia, to mid and long-haul markets such as India, Australia, Germany, UK and USA.
As such, the growth potential for cruise in Asia remains strong, despite the coronavirus outbreak. According to projections by the Report on Cruise Development in Southeast Asia 2017, the number of cruise passengers sailing in Southeast Asia is expected to grow at 4.6 per cent to 6.4 per cent per annum, to reach up to an estimated 4.5 million passengers by 2035.
“Singapore remains well-poised to capture that growth, due to our geographical location and good infrastructure,” says Chang. “Looking ahead, we have a strong, vibrant pipeline of cruise ships calling in Singapore too.”
This includes Genting Cruise Lines’ Global Dream in 2021, which will be the largest ship in the world in terms of passenger capacity. Global Dream will celebrate her inaugural arrival during her relocation cruise from Germany to Asia.
Last November, STB also entered into a five-year multimillion -dollar partnership with Royal Caribbean International and Changi Airport Group.
The partnership is expected to bring in an estimated 623,000 fly-cruise guests from 2019 to 2024, and generate over $430 million in tourist dollars. It will reach out to both regional and long-haul markets like Australia, UK and the United States.
“Singapore remains in a strong position to capture the demand for fly-cruises once the Covid-19 situation improves,” observes Chang.
She explains that Singapore’s excellent air connectivity and good support network with Jewel Changi will draw fly-cruisers. Jewel also houses a lounge for fly-cruise passengers, and offers them the convenience of baggage transfer services from flight to cruise ship.
Chang adds that STB is looking to help the local cruise sector tide through this period of uncertainty.
“STB is committed to supporting Singapore’s cruise industry, especially those that have a long-term partnership with us under the Cruise Development Fund (CDF),” Chang says.
For cruise lines that have homeported deployments out of Singapore, STB provides support such as marketing promotion and trade activities through the CDF. Lines that make regular calls to Singapore will benefit through priority for berth allocation.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has also announced a 50% port dues concession from 1 March to 31 August 2020. The concession will be available to passenger vessels (including cruise ships) with a port stay of not more than 5 days.
“We have been working closely with cruise lines, industry stakeholders and relevant government agencies as well, to provide the appropriate support required at this time,” says Chang.
She eloborates: “Support includes providing timely information to cruise lines calling in Singapore, on how they should respond to the precautionary measures Singapore has put in place to minimise the spread of Covid-19. We’ve stepped up border health screening for all arriving passengers too, as the health and safety of Singaporeans, visitors and those who work in the tourism industry remain STB’s priority.”
Looking ahead, STB will work with industry partners on recovery plans for the tourism sector, including cruising.
“The Tourism Recovery Action Task Force, comprising tourism leaders from both the private and public sectors, will identify opportunities arising from the Covid-19 crisis,” says Chang. “It will drive and implement measures to instil confidence in Singapore’s tourism sector, and co-create recovery plans.”