SINGAPORE: Final month, Schooling Minister Lawrence Wong predicted that the pandemic would final for one more 4 to 5 years earlier than a post-COVID normalcy ensues.

I’m extra optimistic about journey and aviation.

Tourism additionally has a vibrant long-term development outlook. I strongly consider that journey will come again and can proceed to develop considerably past pre-COVID ranges.  

READ: Commentary: For this reason Singapore wants to save lots of its airways and aviation sector

For one, the center class is rising quickly throughout Asia and journey is likely one of the luxuries individuals will pursue.  

Furthermore, individuals throughout have been bitten by the journey bug and are itching to journey to expertise discover the world as soon as once more after being earth-bound for nearly a 12 months. 

Others have household and mates in numerous elements of the world they want to meet whereas some have unfinished enterprise akin to returning to school, resuming enterprise conferences or revisiting work tasks.


Regardless of the motive, journey is itching to take-off once more and can be buoyed by pent-up demand. 

An Oliver Wyman world survey of 4,600 individuals on journey restoration on the finish of final 12 months confirmed that 63 per cent of respondents are open to go on leisure journey quickly with most – 35 per cent – saying that they are going to be open to doing so as soon as vaccinated. 

I consider that components akin to vaccinations, herd immunity and testing enhancements will cut back the necessity for quarantine and permit for extra leisure journey within the coming six to 12 months. 

As soon as journey is taken into account secure and quarantine restrictions are eased, this a part of the enterprise will resurge. 

I do assume that when extra individuals all over the world get vaccinated and we all know extra in regards to the results of the COVID-19 vaccines and the way a lot safety they’re in accordance society, world rules on journey will emerge accordingly. 

Changi Airport tourists covid-19 masks
Travellers, carrying face masks on the departure corridor of Changi Worldwide Airport in Singapore on Feb 27, 2020. (Picture: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

Hopefully, vaccinated travellers should not carriers of the virus anymore as preliminary knowledge from Israel suggests. If that is so, a fast restoration of leisure journey to ranges related prior the pandemic could be anticipated.

There are already some indicators of leisure journey recovering even when these are taking place in small pockets. 

Credit standing company Fitch stated in a broadcast be aware this month that new restriction measures throughout Europe have delayed the restoration of leisure journey, and its “timing will be heavily influenced by the success of pandemic containment measures, including vaccination roll-outs”. 

It predicts such a restoration “most likely by May, although it will not reach pre-crisis levels in the short term”. 

“The budget and economy segments are able to rebound faster from downturns than the higher-tier segments, and we expect this to happen after this crisis.”

The Worldwide Air Transportation Affiliation too not too long ago predicted “a 13 per cent increase in travel demand this year” – principally leisure – even when that may be a modest projection.  


Nonetheless, leisure travellers are far more price-sensitive than enterprise travellers. So, to entice leisure travellers on the onset, airways must watch out at elevating costs of tickets. By balancing demand, they’ll assist enhance flight masses, which can slowly cut back the losses they’re incurring. 

That’s till enterprise journey resumes some type of normalcy. Airways usually want enterprise journey to make flights worthwhile. 

Sadly, the one blip amongst all this optimism is that enterprise journey might take 4 to 5 years to achieve pre-COVID ranges.

READ: Commentary: SIA’s resumption of every day continuous flights to key US cities – how essential are they?

The transformation of transferring many conferences on-line implies that we want much less gross sales, enterprise growth and consulting journeys to be made.

It implies that, with out catching red-eye flights midway all over the world, the productiveness of such executives enhance as their scope and methods of working change too.

It seems that executives might discover it essential to solely journey to additional places as it might be less expensive to exchange regional journey with on-line communication, which implies that extra of their journeys are prone to be long-haul in comparison with pre-COVID.

This could bode effectively for long-haul enterprise journey.  Nonetheless, quick to mid-haul journeys can be severely affected with the brand new methods of working.

READ: Commentary: Asian airways might by no means recuperate with out consolidation


To assist the trade to a minimum of considerably mitigate the lack of high-yield passengers, the current S$870 million pledged in assist of the aviation sector introduced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat on this 12 months’s finances can be welcomed by the airways and different trade gamers.

DPM Heng Swee Keat Budget 2021 statement
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat delivers the Finances 2021 assertion on Feb 16, 2021.

These assist measures embrace a ten per cent touchdown cost rebate and a 50 per cent rental rebate for floor dealing with corporations’ lounges and places of work on the Changi and Seletar Airport terminals.

These price financial savings are prone to translate into extra capability being deployed earlier as has already been seen with Singapore Airways (SIA) resuming their every day continuous flights to key US locations regardless of working at lower than 1 / 4 of the flight load.

Provided that some airways went beneath and those who survived have minimize capability and prices, they need to be capable to generate constructive money flows once more inside the coming 12 months even when enterprise travellers path leisure passengers. 

Nonetheless, whereas ready for money move to ramp up, supplementary funding from the federal government remains to be wanted to offer monetary buffer and construct resilience in opposition to future shocks.

By offering corporations monetary assist whereas the airways’ capability utilisation is low permits them to up their recreation throughout this quieter interval.

READ: Commentary: Can Singapore be a significant COVID-19 vaccine transshipment hub and save its aviation trade?

Whether or not it’s new hygiene options, contactless or least- contact passenger journeys, or the corporations’ extra aggressive push into digitisation, airways will and might do these provided that they’re vigilant of the newest developments and assured they’ll survive this pandemic.

Giving corporations this confidence and nudging them in the direction of innovation will allow them to be well-poised in a restoration.

For an aviation hub akin to Singapore, pulling forward is necessary due to community results. 

For this ecosystem, quantity builds quantity.  The upper the connectivity, the extra quantity can be attracted, making this a constructive, self-reinforcing virtuous cycle. 

These networks impact work for travellers and for cargo and clarify why SIA resumed capability rapidly on key strategic locations. 

The significance of being a hub could be felt by the entire economic system and never simply the trade, therefore justifying Authorities help. Aviation contributed some 12 per cent to Singapore’s GDP previous to the pandemic.

SIA A350-900ULR delivery
Singapore Airways’ Airbus A350-900 ULR. (File photograph: Singapore Airways) 

Vacationers that are available in to the nation by way of air journey have a tendency to remain for just a few days resulting in a constructive impression on the revenues of motels, F&B shops, retail shops, taxies and extra.

Enterprise travellers too, who’re extra inclined to carry conferences, conventions and conferences within the metropolis contribute to spending.

For Singapore, a cutting-edge, highly effective aviation ecosystem straight advantages the nation as a complete.  Ease of journey, price competitiveness, and high quality of the journey expertise are all critically necessary for the numerous different sectors required to construct the nation’s aggressive edge. 

READ: Commentary: No journey plans these college holidays, however that is okay

From wealth administration, to tech start-up ecosystems and the big MNCs – a robust aviation sector that pulls away from its regional rivals helps to draw these companies and contributes to Singapore’s future readiness and prosperity.  


Nonetheless, regardless of receiving continued Authorities help, to take care of this restoration momentum, airways like SIA must take robust human capital selections.

Gamers within the aviation sector might discover that they might want to shed jobs to chop prices in order that they will proceed to be lean to answer demand.

Right here, they might be extra prepared to chop staff in job capabilities that may both be skilled comparatively rapidly or are simply obtainable in Singapore’s expertise pool.  

Airways might discover a lesser have to hold such workers on the payroll when they’re underemployed.  

Corporations might discover that, if headcount in these areas is simply too excessive, it may be diminished now and rebuilt in keeping with growing site visitors.

For specialist positions akin to pilots and knowledgeable technicians, airways could also be extra hesitant to allow them to go as such workers, as soon as let go, might get different employment, depart Singapore or discover that their expertise are much less up-to-date when they’re able to be re-employed. 

changi airport covid-19 singapore sia singapore air crew
File photograph of Changi Aiport’s transit space. (Picture: Nicole Chang)

Any of these eventualities might make it difficult for the airline to rehire them and rebuild that functionality. 

Due to this fact, it will be good to retain workers with these expertise and make use of them part-time maybe to maintain them related and on the payroll.

Right here particularly, the extension of the Jobs Assist Scheme by an additional six months is of nice worth.  The Authorities might revisit the allocation relying on how briskly journey bounces again. 

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However for now, it seems that this can be the final tranche of assist wanted if leisure journey slowly recovers with growing vaccination and world enterprise journey creeping up too. 

On their half, airways want to have a look at chopping prices to stay lean and to place themselves to be prepared for the upturn.

LISTEN: A labour MP, a enterprise group chief and an economist break down the shifts underway in Singapore’s Finances 2021 on CNA’s Coronary heart of the Matter podcast:


Professor Jochen Wirtz is vice dean for MBA programmes and a professor of promoting at Nationwide College of Singapore Enterprise Faculty. He’s the co-author of the guide “Intelligent Automation – Welcome to the World of Hyperautomation”.

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