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Singapore Has One-Third of Global Cruise Travelers

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 13/4/2021 Faris Mokhtar
Sun loungers sit on The Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship, operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s cruise line brand Royal Caribbean International (RCI), as the ship sits berthed at the Marina Bay Cruise Center in Singapore, on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. For the better part of a decade, wealthy Chinese tourists have been on a feeding frenzy for luxury brands, casinos and cruise lines. As a result, China became the world’s biggest spender in international tourism in 2012, according to data from the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations agency. © Bloomberg Sun loungers sit on The Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship, operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s cruise line brand Royal Caribbean International (RCI), as the ship sits berthed at the Marina Bay Cruise Center in Singapore, on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. For the better part of a decade, wealthy Chinese tourists have been on a feeding frenzy for luxury brands, casinos and cruise lines. As a result, China became the world’s biggest spender in international tourism in 2012, according to data from the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations agency.

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore now accounts for one-third of global cruise travelers, a testament to the nation’s ability to contain the coronavirus and resume operations at a time when many other countries are still struggling.

The city-state, which contains a population of 5.7 million on an island smaller than New York City, was able to achieve what it has because of its robust health safety framework, Singapore Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer Keith Tan said at a conference Wednesday.

Singapore began offering so-called cruises to nowhere last year after authorities introduced a CruiseSafe certification, which all operators have to obtain before they set sail. It spells out standards companies must achieve, including mandatory Covid testing prior to boarding, ensuring safe distancing and frequent cleaning and sanitizing.

To date, more than 120,000 residents of Singapore have taken a cruise -- many multiple times. Because of the overwhelming demand, heightened by the fact international travel remains largely off limits, the cruises have been extended until October. Two operators are offering the trips, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Genting Cruise Lines.

People said they felt safer going on a cruise than going to some places in Singapore “because everyone is tested before they go on the cruise,” Tan said. “So having that framework of assurance has been a major cornerstone of our success.”

Singapore has done a stellar job getting the spread of the coronavirus under control. The country also plans to vaccinate its entire population by the end of the year.

While the vaccine roll out in the U.K. and the U.S. is also progressing well, virus cases are still surging in Europe and parts of South America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. said cruise operations could start by mid-summer after the country’s largest operator, Carnival Corp., threatened to relocate ships to other markets.

However Tan downplayed Singapore’s dominance, noting that cruising in most other places of the world is yet to restart, hurting an industry that was worth $150 billion in 2018.

“Let me just say this in context -- one-third of global cruise throughput in a time when virtually all other cruise destinations and cruise ports have stopped or are not moving at all is nothing to crow about,” Tan said. “Over the next few months, I certainly believe there will be more resumption of cruise business in the Caribbean, and in the Mediterranean as well.”

(Corrects name of certification in third paragraph.)

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