Singapore is welcoming them back, but a full return of Chinese tourists isn't likely in 2023, Singapore Tourism Board executives said at a press conference Tuesday.
Singapore Tourism Board's CEO Keith Tan cited limited flight capacity and the speed of China's border reopening as some of the reasons a full recovery from Chinese tourists isn't expected this year.
Tan told CNBC that travel recovery from China is unlikely to exceed 60% of pre-Covid levels by year-end.
"We are hoping to get, for the whole year 2023, between 30% to 60% of where we were compared to the whole year 2019," he said. "In our most ambitious and aggressive scenarios, we hope that things will be almost back to normal by the end of 2023."
Currently, the number of flights from Singapore to China is only 10% of what it was pre-Covid. Unlike other countries in Asia, Singapore has not imposed new Covid-related restrictions on travelers from China.
Singapore's tourism industry is expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, according to its tourism board.
Tan said he welcomes competition from Hong Kong in terms of MICE — meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.
Hong Kong "will throw a lot of resources to secure and anchor a whole range of events," he said.
"I welcome that competition. I think it is good, and I'm glad that Hong Kong is back in business ... but that also means that we have to work harder at securing a good set of events and investments for Singapore."
Juliana Kua, assistant CEO of Singapore Tourism Board, added that there is "a strong pipeline of MICE events coming up to attract Chinese corporate travelers."
Kua said that a trend observed among Chinese travelers is small group bookings with customized itineraries, rather than off-the-shelf packaged tours. The Singapore Tourism Board is targeting these travelers, she said.
Singapore's international visitor arrivals reached 6.3 million in 2022, which is 33% of 2019 levels, according to Singapore Tourism Board's statistics. About 1.1 million visitors came from Indonesia, the highest number of arrivals from any country.
Preliminary estimates for tourism receipts are between $13.8 billion and $14.3 billion Singapore dollars ($10.4 billion and $10.8 billion), which is around half of 2019's tourism revenue.