Passenger arrivals into Singapore’s Changi Airport are down significantly owing to the coronavirus outbreak. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) estimates passenger arrivals are now down 18,000 to 20,000 per day and set to decline further.
A big drop in arrivals numbers and expected to drop further
A report by Tiffany Fumiko Tay in The Straits Times today says the coronavirus outbreak is having a bigger impact on Singapore than the 2003 SARS outbreak. STB chief executive Keith Tan told the newspaper;
“At this point, we estimate that every day, we lose an average of 18,000 to 20,000 international visitor arrivals to Singapore.
“Singapore’s tourism sector is facing its biggest challenge since SARS in 2003. But unlike SARS, we are now better prepared and more resilient. Our destination remains attractive, we have a strong pipeline of tourism products, and our market portfolio is diverse.”
Singapore has 45 confirmed cases of coronavirus (now officially called COVID-19) which is the highest number outside of China.
Chinese visitors important to Singapore
According to the STB, China accounts for about 20% of Singapore’s international visitor arrivals. The Chinese are Singapore’s largest source of tourists. But the Lion City was the first Southeast Asian country to close its borders to new arrivals from mainland China. With the outbreak still not under control, the STB is expecting visitor arrivals to fall 25% to 30% in 2020.
Singapore welcomed 19.1 million visitor arrivals in 2019. The visitors spent a total of USD$19.55 billion. Singapore’s GDP is around USD$365 billion. A decline in visitor numbers has flow-through effects on hospitality providers, retailers, tour operators, and accommodation providers.
According to OAG data, the number of flights between China and Singapore has dropped 89.1% in the last month.
Local airlines cancel flights into China
Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary Silk Air are suspending and/or reducing services to some Chinese cities. These include services between Singapore and Beijing, Singapore and Shanghai, Singapore and Guangzhou, Singapore and Shenzhen, Singapore and Xiamen, Singapore and Chengdu, and Singapore to Chongqing.
Singapore Airlines has not suspended all its services into mainland China. In a statement, Singapore Airlines said.
“There are still many Singaporeans working and living in China now, many of whom will still require connectivity between Singapore and China. As the national carrier, we will continue to maintain minimum connectivity to the key cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing for now despite the reduced demand.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and make adjustments as necessary.”
Singapore Airlines‘ local low-cost carrier Scoot has suspended all flights between Singapore and mainland China until the end of March 2020. Scoot flies to 19 destinations in mainland China. The airline is also warning of ad hoc cancellations on services between Singapore and Macau and Singapore and Hong Kong.
A big impact on the bottom line?
Between them, Singapore Airlines, Silk Air, and Scoot fly to 26 mainland China destinations. For their common parent company, Temasek Holdings, China is their largest single market and probably the most critical.
In the 2018/19 financial year, the three Singaporean airlines between them made USD$11.77 billion in revenue and USD$770 million in operating profit. With passenger arrivals plummeting in Singapore and no reprieve on the short-term horizon, the financial outlook for the three airlines may not be so rosy this year.
The pain spreads beyond Singapore Airlines. Fewer arrivals mean less money spent at hotels, restaurants, shops, and local businesses. The impact trickles through to local households.
Unfortunately, this pain is not going to be unique to Singapore.