February 11, 2020 / 2:38 AM / 18 days ago

Coronavirus seen trimming Singapore visitors by nearly a third this year

FILE PHOTO: Tourists wearing protective face masks pose for photos at the Merlion Park in Singapore, January 28, 2020. REUTERS/Feline Lim/File Photo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore expects visitor numbers to drop 25-30% this year due to the new coronavirus outbreak, with a significant decline in Chinese travel to the city-state expected to extend to other key markets, its tourism board said on Tuesday.

The city-state has reported 45 cases of the virus, which has claimed over 1000 lives in China, while some countries such as Kuwait and Qatar have already started advising their citizens against travel to the Southeast Asian business hub.

“The situation this year will be at least as severe as SARS and possibly worse,” Singapore Tourism Board chief executive Keith Tan said, referring to a 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that killed over 30 people in Singapore.

Tan said most of the reduction in visitors so far were from China due to travel restrictions, but that travelers from other countries were also deferring or cancelling trips to Singapore.

Visitor arrivals rose 3.3% to 19.1 million visitors in 2019, with receipts up 0.5% to S$27.1 billion ($19.52 billion), STB said.

The Singapore government has said it expects a hit to its economy from the virus and is planning measures to support the tourism and hospitality industry. Fitch Ratings estimates the tourism sector accounts for about 6% of the wealthy city-state’s economy.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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