With Singapore reopening its borders in April to all vaccinated travellers, it received more than 1.5 million visitors for the first half of 2022. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) predicted in a statement that it expects international visitor arrivals to the city-state to reach as much as six million this year.
While still very much shy of the 9.3 million tourists that come into Singapore during the first six months of pre-COVID 2019, it is 12 times more than it received for the corresponding period in 2021.
Of the 1.5 million visitors, Indians represent the second highest nationality coming to Singapore during this six-month period with over 219,000 visiting the island.
The largest group of visitors are from neighbours Indonesia at 282,000. Malaysia is third with 139,000 visiting Singapore by air, followed by Australia (125,000) and the Philippines (81,000). Together the top five account for over 56 per cent of international visitors for the January to June period of this year.
With much of the world’s population now vaccinated and with global travel picking up, Singapore is receiving a significant share of visitor traffic.
This is because it was one of the first in the region to reopen its borders with no quarantine and is also perceived to be a safe destination having seen to have handled the coronavirus outbreak well.
In terms of absolute year-on-year visitor growth, visitor arrivals from Indonesia expanded 1,996 per cent, India 1,344 per cent and Malaysia 2,000 per cent.
This year, 84 per cent of the 1.5 million visitors who arrived in the first six months came to Singapore after the border reopened to all vaccinated travellers in April.
For comparison, Singapore received 330,000 foreign visitors in the first six months of 2021, and in the same period of 2020, it received 2.74 million travellers, out of which 88 per cent arrived in the pre-pandemic lockdown months of January and February that year.
With the number of visitors to Singapore rising rapidly, Singapore’s Changi Airport has been kept busy.
Last week, the airport announced that it will reopen Terminal 4 from September 13 this year, the last of the terminals not yet operating after COVID-19 all but shut down the airport.
This follows soon after the reopening of Terminal 2 in May. Terminal 4 has a capacity to handle 16 million passengers a year and airlines that will be moving there include Cathay Pacific, Korean Air, Air Asia, and Cebu Pacific.
This is not surprising as passenger and aircraft traffic at Changi has been soaring in the last couple of months.
The airport handled an average of about 13,000 aircraft per month in the first three months of this year. In the months of April and May, 15,100 and 17,100 aeroplanes took off and landed at the airport. Last year, for the first five months of 2021, a monthly average of 7,800 commercial planes passed through Changi.
The number of passengers flowing through the airport has also markedly increased. In the three months between January and March 2022, before Singapore fully opened to all vaccinated travellers, a total of 2,563,000 passengers passed through Changi. The numbers for April and May are 1,930,000 and 2,470,000 respectively. By comparison, for the first five months of 2021, 773,000 went through the gates at Changi.
Also last week, Singapore Airlines (SIA) reported its operating statistics for the month of June, saying, “Robust demand for air travel during the mid-year holidays, coupled with the start of the summer travel season, has resulted in an exceptionally strong performance in June 2022.”
This is with the exception of countries like China, Japan and Taiwan where travel restrictions remain in place.
The Singapore Airlines Group carried a total of 1,938,200 passengers in June 2022, a rise of 13.7 per cent from May. Group passenger capacity (measured in available seat-kilometres) in June 2022 was three per centage points higher than the month before and 36 per cent higher compared to a year ago. It is now at 64 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
The Group passenger load factor (PLF) reached a new pandemic high of 85.5 per cent, an increase of 7.3 per centage points month-on-month and 69.4 per centage points year-on-year. This was on the back of SIA posting a monthly PLF of 87.8 per cent, a record for the airline.
Earlier this month, the airline announced that it plans to progressively restore all its flights in India to pre-pandemic levels by the end of October.
SIA will gradually increase its flight frequency and operate 17 weekly services to Chennai, up from the current 10 flights per week. Kochi services will go up to 14 times weekly, up from the current seven flights per week. Bengaluru services will go up to 16 times weekly, up from the current seven flights per week.
Stock market analysts are saying that SIA will surprise on the upside when it reports its financial results for the quarter ending June later this week.
With a strong pipeline of events in Singapore, SIA will continue to benefit from visitors flowing into the island. Among the events and attractions, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) expect will bring in the crowds are the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, Hell’s Museum at Haw Par Villa, the Museum of Ice Cream, SkyHelix Sentosa, and the “Avatar: The Experience” at Gardens by the Bay.
Despite the optimistic outlook, STB cautioned that “tourism flows will face some headwinds for the rest of the year because of the volatile global political and economic environment, as well as the evolving health situation.” Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board said, “The encouraging growth in visitor arrivals and tourism receipts signals strong pent-up demand, and underscores Singapore’s continued appeal as a vibrant and attractive destination for leisure and business travellers. While the pandemic is certainly not over yet, we are confident that Singapore’s very rich calendar of events, as well as new and refreshed tourism offerings, will continue to attract visitors for the rest of 2022 and beyond.”