The Straits Times/Asia News Network
School children look at life size moving figure of an orangutan during a preview of the animatronic prehistoric megafauna display at Singapore Zoo on November 13, 2019. (AFP/Roslan Rahman)
Attractions including the Singapore Zoo, ArtScience Museum and Universal Studios will be allowed to reopen from Wednesday, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced on Sunday.
All have been closed for nearly three months, since the start of Singapore's circuit breaker on April 7.
STB said the three are among 13 pre-approved attractions permitted to resume operations in stages.
The 13 are: The Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay, Jurong Bird Park, River Safari, Singapore Zoo, the ArtScience Museum, the casino, SkyPark and observation deck at Marina Bay Sands, Universal Studios Singapore, SEA Aquarium, and the casino at Resorts World Sentosa, Madame Tussauds wax museum on Sentosa, trampoline park Bounce, and virtual reality arcade Zero Latency.
Most attractions will be restricted to no more than 25 per cent of their operating capacity at any one time, and access to the casinos will be limited to existing members and annual levy holders only for the time being, STB said.
Other attractions and domestic tour operators can now submit reopening proposals to STB for assessment, and may resume operations only after receiving approval from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Proposals must illustrate how safe management measures will be tailored to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19 for each attraction or tour, STB said.
While retail shops, sports facilities and most other businesses have been allowed to resume in phase two of the economy's gradual reopening, entertainment outlets and attractions have had to remain shut ,as they were deemed to pose a higher risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
STB said that it will also step up efforts to ensure that more tourism businesses apply for SG Clean certification. This certification ensures higher standards of cleaning, hygiene and sanitization, and will provide more confidence to visitors, it added.
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STB chief executive Keith Tan said that in Singapore's gradual reopening of the tourism sector, the board's priority will be to ensure that businesses can provide a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors.
"While it will be some time before Singapore can fully welcome international visitors, we hope Singaporeans and residents of Singapore will enjoy what our tourism businesses have to offer in a socially responsible way," he said.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post on Sunday that the Government has been working to help tourism-related businesses resume their activities safely and to save jobs in the hard-hit industry.
STB has been advising tourism businesses on required safety measures and 13 have already been given the green light to reopen, he noted.
“We will progressively allow more tourism businesses to reopen with those who are able to put in place the additional measures in a comprehensive manner to resume operations first,” he wrote.
Mr Chan also called on Singaporeans to support local tourism businesses, something echoed by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat in a separate Facebook post.
Mr Chee wrote: “The tourism sector will take a long time to recover, as we do not expect international travel to return to its previous levels before a vaccine is developed. For attractions and tours, operators need to attract local customers during this period.
Mr Chee noted that families were likely looking forward to spending time together at popular attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Zoo.
But he also urged caution, saying: “I encourage you to do so to support our operators, but please also remember to observe safe distancing measures to protect yourself and the community.”
Advance bookings required
Tourist attractions approved to reopen from Wednesday are gearing up to welcome smaller groups of visitors with safety measures in place. Some, like Wildlife Reserves Singapore, will be reopening their ticketed attractions in phases with advance bookings required.
Mr Mike Barclay, group chief executive of Mandai Park Holdings, said that the Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Singapore Zoo will reopen to the general public on July 6, while members will be able to visit from Friday.
The Night Safari will reopen at a later date so that staff can focus on resuming daytime operations first.
The three parks will operate at 25 per cent of their usual capacity, and visitors will be required to pre-book tickets online.
“We have stepped up our disinfection protocols and the application of contactless payment solutions, and we will use technology to help us monitor in-park numbers and spacing within our parks,” Mr Barclay said, adding that some activities will be suspended to ensure safe distancing.
Gardens by the Bay said it will be reopening the Flower Dome first on July 11. Its Friends of the Gardens members will be able to visit from as early as Wednesday.
Its other ticketed attractions – Cloud Forest, OCBC Skyway, Supertree Observatory and Floral Fantasy – as well as the Garden Rhapsody sound and light show will resume in phases at a later date, a spokesman said.
Ticket sales for the Flower Dome will open to the public on July 7 through its website and newly launched app, which will be available for download from Monday.
The app will allow visitors to buy and scan tickets, check in and out using SafeEntry, and get real-time updates on crowd levels.
Physical ticketing counters at Gardens by the Bay will remain closed until the end of September, and tickets purchased through the app will be discounted by $1 during this period, the statement said.
The capacity of the Flower Dome will be reduced by 75 per cent for the time being to prevent overcrowding, and visitors will have to pre-book tickets for specified time slots.
Gardens by the Bay chief executive Felix Loh said: “Our operations team has been working very hard to ensure all safety protocols are in place, while our horticulturists have been toiling over the past three months to keep our precious plant collections in shape despite the limited staffing allowed onsite.”
Singapore’s two integrated resorts are also taking a cautious approach to reopening.
Resorts World Sentosa said its Universal Studios theme park and SEA Aquarium will reopen on Monday and Saturday respectively. Both will open four days a week with staggered operating hours for a start, and advance reservations required.
The casino, which will open its doors to Genting Rewards members and annual levy holders on Wednesday, will see antimicrobial-coated acrylic “safety shields” installed at all gaming tables and machines, among other safety and hygiene measures.
Marina Bay Sands (MBS) said the ArtScience Museum and SandsSkyPark Observation Deck will reopen to Sands Rewards members first on Wednesday, while its mall and some of its restaurants have already opened their doors to the public.
Other venues within the complex, such as the hotel, Sands Expo and Convention Centre, theater and Marquee nightclub will resume later, in line with government guidelines, it said.
Sands Rewards Club members holding Gold status or higher as well as annual levy holders will be allowed to visit the casino from Wednesday.
MBS said it has trained more than 1,000 staff members to take on safe distancing roles to ensure both guests and employees adhere to the rules.
Mr Paul Town, its senior vice-president of resort operations, said that restrictions may be progressively eased as the COVID-19 situation improves.
“Our aim is to reopen with a fresh suite of experiences and safeguards in place to instil a greater sense of comfort and reassurance as we begin to welcome back our guests,” he said.
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