O’ Restless Warriors, Find Your Solace at Home
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Wednesday, 29th July 2020

One of the earliest literary pieces I read and that left a big impression on me was 'Lady Precious Stream', written by SI Hsing.

To cut a long play short – it was a Chinese play written in English circa 1933 – it’s about the adventures of a restless warrior who, in the end, after all his travels, returns home and realises that everything he’d ever looked for was right at home, in his case, his dutiful wife.

I think I was about 13 when I read it, and I identified more with Xue, the restless warrior, than the dutiful wife. He clearly had all the fun. She just stayed home.

The story came back to me as I was listening to Singapore Tourism Board’s CEO Keith Tan announcing its $45m domestic tourism campaign and how it would run over nine months, and I think it was then that the realisation hit me that there would be no more travelling abroad for at least that period.

Welcome to the final stage of grief, acceptance. I’ve arrived.

The message from Tuesday’s media briefing and Wednesday’s Tourism Recovery Dialogue was loud and clear – borders won’t be open anytime soon. And even if borders were open, who would come? Not many.

The STB did a Brand Health survey in April, which showed that only 24 percent of travellers across 14 key markets felt confident to travel internationally and only 33 percent of them felt confident to visit Singapore. I’m sure the numbers will be even lower now.

There is some hope in those Safe Travel Corridors but there are also huge hurdles to surmount there. Right now, only China is in place and Malaysia will begin from August 10 and Minister of Trade Chan Chun Sing said talks are ongoing with countries like South Korea, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and some European countries to agree on common protocols to allow the safe resumption of travel.

The grief is not for me personally but for the entire tourism industry in Singapore and all those who work in it. We are warriors-in-arms fighting the toughest battle we’ve ever encountered, with unknown terrain and an invisible enemy.

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