It could take at least two years before international travel returns to pre-COVID-19 conditions, according to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Even with the arrival of a vaccine, Lee predicts worldwide travel is still a long way away from returning to normal.
Speaking during an online conference presented by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group of countries, Lee also suggested relationships between various jurisdictions have been negatively impacted by the current pandemic.
“I think travel is not going to return to normal next year: maybe in two years’ time,” said Lee.
“If I have more cases than you, you are afraid of me. Once you have that kind of relationship, it is very difficult to open up.
“We are trying very hard to avoid having a second outbreak in a big way, and having to have a second circuit breaker or lockdown.”
The APEC group includes many Southeast Asian nations, as well as China, the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
Lee’s comments echo those of Singapore Tourism Board CEO Keith Tan, who in September suggested it may take up to five years for Singapore’s inbound tourism market to recover from the damage caused by COVID-19.
The city-state’s two casino complexes (Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands) have already flagged the fact that their hotel facilities are being marketed to domestic customers in the absence of foreign visitors.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced at the end of October the easing of inbound-visitor restrictions from mainland China and the Australian state of Victoria from 6 November, with a Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble due to start on 22 November.
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