People visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand on June 7 - Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images
Dhaka: Governments across Asia are rolling out tourism support programmes and marketing campaigns in an effort to cover revenue loss via domestic travel as international travel is yet to turn back to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Singapore has launched a SGD 45 million (USD 32.5 million) marketing push, in a bid to boost domestic tourism. The nine-month campaign by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Enterprise Singapore and Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) aims to give local lifestyle and tourism businesses a much-needed boost amid continued uncertainty.
Speaking during the launch of the SingapoRediscovers campaign on July 22, Chan Chun Sing, Trade and Industry Minister, noted that the tourism market will remain depressed and volatile until a vaccine is made available, as countries are hit with recurring waves of infection. The gradual resumption will likely begin with niche rather than mass-market tourism.
Keith Tan, Chief Executive of STB said that the domestic market will not be enough to make up for the shortfall in tourist spending, which amounted to SGD 27.7 billion (USD 20 billion) last year.
But the hope is to combine cost-reducing support measures with maximised revenue and demand to "buy as much time as possible for as many businesses as possible to survive through this time", he added.
STB’s move follows similar efforts taking place across Southeast Asia, as governments and companies focus on domestic tourism following the plunge in international travel.
This week, Japan’s travel subsidy campaign also kicked off to help revive a domestic tourism industry stricken by the pandemic. The USD 12.5 billion "Go to Travel" campaign, was launched in the face of worries that the initiative could worsen the virus outbreak at a time when the nationwide tally of infections has started picking up again.
Last week the government made an abrupt decision to remove trips to Tokyo by its residents from the scheme because of a spike in new cases in the capital.
Under the programme, the government will eventually subsidise up to half of travel expenses, including accommodation and transport fees. Initially, it will provide discounts worth 35 per cent of total costs. The remaining 15 per cent will be covered by coupons to be issued after September for food, shopping and other travel activities offered at destinations.
In Thailand, the government announced a THB 22.4 billion (USD 71 million) domestic tourism stimulus package, to combat the shortfall in international revenue. Thais spent THB 400 billion (USD 12.6 billion) travelling abroad in 2019 – and the government hopes to capture 75 per cent of that sum in domestic receipts this year.
In addition, there are hopes to earn at least THB 900 billion from domestic travel this year, which would nearly rival 2019’s tourism revenue of THB 1.28 trillion (USD 40.4 billion) generated by Thailand’s primary cities.
Last year, the country received 18 per cent of its GDP from tourism, and domestic travel spend made up about 6 per cent of that total, approximately THB 01 trillion (out of THB 03 trillion) of tourism income.
On the other hand, Vietnam emerged relatively unscathed from COVID-19 lockdown and was the first SEA nation to attempt a revival of its tourism industry. In early May, the government launched a "Vietnamese people travel to Vietnam destinations" campaign, slated to continue until the end of the year.
Airlines, travel agencies and resorts are offering discounts of about 50 per cent or more to fill up resorts and restaurants bereft of guests while incoming flights are still banned.
"With a population of more than 97 million people, and an increasing proportion of middle class, Vietnam has a domestic tourism market with huge potential," said Vu The Binh, Vice Chairman, Vietnam Tourism Association, said.
Local tourists made up 85 million of the 103 million travellers in Vietnam last year and spent the equivalent of USD 21 billion.