SINGAPORE (Feb 11): Amid the novel coronavirus outbreak in Singapore that has so far infected 45 people, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said in a media conference on Tuesday that tourist arrivals and receipts for 2020 will take a significant hit.

Visitor arrivals for this year are estimated to drop by 25-30%, according to STB.

“We believe that the situation this year will be comparable to the situation we faced in 2003 during SARS — and quite possibly worse. At this point, we estimate that every day, we lose an average of 18,000 to 20,000 international visitor arrivals to Singapore,” says Keith Tan, chief executive of STB.

These numbers may increase: most of the “lost” visitors are Chinese, and Singapore has placed a travel ban on Chinese citizens. Additionally, travellers from other countries are also deferring their travel plans to Singapore.

However, STB is remaining positive and aiming for a strong recovery on the back of four years of consecutive growth.

As it is, the government is in the process of forming a public-private sector Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC) to lay out the plans of recovery and future growth for the overall tourism sector.

TRAC will map out recovery strategies and plans for tourism in Singapore. The taskforce will comprise tourism leaders from the public and private sectors, to leverage on the strength of both sectors and coordinate recovery efforts.

Their work will include identifying opportunities arising from the coronavirus crisis, driving and implementing measures to instil confidence in Singapore’s tourism establishments, as well as co-creating and initiating recovery plans.

“Unlike SARS, we are now better prepared and more resilient [to face the coronavirus challenge]. Our destination remains attractive, we have a strong pipeline of tourism products, and our market portfolio is diverse,” says Tan.

On top of that, the government has already announced immediate and targeted measures, such as licence fee waivers and help to defray cleaning costs for hotels with suspected and confirmed virus cases.