The tourism industry has been hit in recent months following events such as the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, but Singapore could attract up to half a million more visitors in two years’ time if it improves its visa procedures, said a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and World Tourism Organization.
Key markets that require a visa for Singapore include China, India and Russia. Visa facilitation could result in about 358,000 to 504,000 more visitors in 2016 than under current policies and an additional S$768 million to S$1.08 billion in tourism receipts, estimated the report, The Impact of Visa Facilitation in ASEAN Member States, published earlier this year.
The report’s projection of 2016 figures, however, was based on the World Tourism Organization’s international arrivals figure of 11.9 million for Singapore last year – significantly below the 15.6 million visitor arrivals published by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
On the discrepancy, WTTC head of communications Emma Coulthurst said the World Tourism Organization’s arrivals figures are generally seen as the most authoritative and consistent source across countries.
Differing statistics aside, Singapore should consider e-visa programs and regional agreements for visa facilitation and maximise infocomm technology to improve visa procedures, among other possibilities, the WTTC said.
Visas are inhibiting the growth of tourism in general and governments need to automate processes, produce more visas-on-arrival and, eventually, get rid of visas altogether, said WTTC president and chief executive officer David Scowsill.
In addition to continued innovation and investment in infrastructure, Singapore has to focus on China, said Mr Scowsill. About 100 million Chinese traveled abroad last year and this number is expected to hit 200 million by 2020.