a full restoration will not be anticipated this yr

Singapore is welcoming them back, but a full return of Chinese tourists in 2023 is not likely, executives at the Singapore Tourism Board said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Singapore Tourism Board CEO Keith Tan cited limited flight capacity and the speed of reopening the Chinese border as some of the reasons why a full recovery of Chinese tourists is not expected this year.

Tan told CNBC that travel recovery from China is unlikely to top 60% of pre-Covid levels by the end of the year.

“We hope to be between 30% and 60% of where we were for all of 2023 for all of 2023,” he said. “In our most ambitious and aggressive scenarios, we hope things will almost return to normal by the end of 2023.”

Currently, the number of flights from Singapore to China is only 10% of the pre-Covid number. Unlike other Asian countries, Singapore has not imposed any new Covid-related restrictions on travelers from China.

Singapore’s tourism industry is expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, according to the tourism association.

competition from Hong Kong

Tan said he welcomes the competition from Hong Kong in terms of MICE – meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.

Hong Kong “will deploy a lot of resources to secure and anchor a whole range of events,” he said.

“I welcome this competition. I think it’s good and I’m glad Hong Kong is back in business…but it also means we have to work harder to secure a series of good events and investments for Singapore.”

Juliana Kua, deputy CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board, added that “a strong pipeline of MICE events lies ahead to attract Chinese business travelers”.

Kua said a trend seen among Chinese travelers is toward small group bookings with bespoke itineraries rather than off-the-shelf vacation packages. The Singapore Tourism Board is targeting these travelers, she said.

Singapore’s international visitor arrivals hit 6.3 million in 2022, up 33% from 2019’s level, according to Singapore Tourism Board statistics. About 1.1 million visitors came from Indonesia, the highest number of arrivals from any country.

Preliminary estimates for tourism revenue range from S$13.8 billion to 14.3 billion (US$10.4 billion to US$10.8 billion), about half of 2019 tourism revenue.

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