With the spread of COVID-19 stabilizing over time thanks to high vaccination rates, the new normal seems to be taking hold across Southeast Asia一one open border at a time.
Based on recent announcements, fully-vaccinated people traveling to Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines and many other Southeast Asian countries no longer need to quarantine themselves when they arrive.
Most recently, Singapore joined its regional neighbors by dropping their mandatory quarantine for vaccinated overseas travelers and relaxing COVID-19 social distancing measures in a bid to embrace what is now called the “new normal”.
While this marks a turning point in how we live, work and travel with COVID-19, it also has significant implications for businesses一especially those that have been impacted during the peak of the pandemic i.e. aviation, tourism and F&B.
What does this mean for businesses across the board and more importantly, how can they benefit from the region’s more relaxed approach to social and travel measures?
Let’s explore below.
If you’re in the aviation, F&B and event management industry, chances are your business took a much harder hit from the effects of COVID-19 restrictions more than other industries. However, now that travel restrictions as well as general safety measures are seeing a gradual ease, 2022 and beyond is looking to be the light at the end of the tunnel. Stock movements certainly show a promising recovery.
Some companies have seen sharp gains in stocks since the announcement of lifted travel restrictions in Singapore. Notably, airport ground-handling company SATS saw the highest gain of 5%. Singapore Airlines Shares also went up by 4%. This signals a strong demand for international travel. As countries continue to roll out their relaxed approach to living with COVID, F&B and event management companies could also follow suit with a steady resurgence.
FYI: In Singapore, from 29 March 2022 onwards, Singapore has announced increased capacity limits of 75% for large-scale events of more than 1,000 people. Socializing will also be allowed for bigger groups, with the maximum group size being doubled from 5 to 10 people.
While webinars and zoom calls have been more or less integrated as part of our day-to-day work life, we expect to see more in-person events with the recent relaxed travel and social restrictions. Businesses such as event management companies, PR agencies and entertainment companies would have the biggest potential to gain traction by seizing more opportunities to organize wide-scale events that was once impossible due to the high risk of infection.
With more countries opening their borders and reducing quarantine for overseas travelers, that could be the catalyst necessary for even more startups to kick their expansion plans into high-gear and scale more aggressively. Seeing as Southeast Asia continues to see rising investment interest from across the globe (total of $11.5 billion in funding in h2 2021), the sky is now the limit for startups to gain new ground by operating in more markets in the region and beyond. Read our take on The state of business travel: Expansion in the new norm
As Singapore’s Prime Minister aptly puts it, “Our fight against COVID-19 has reached a major turning point.” Instead of limiting businesses with restrictive safety measures, there is now an active movement towards living with the pandemic. That said, how has the pandemic affected consumer behavior? By the numbers, businesses that have shifted to digital are thriving. In the same vein, more consumers have fully embraced digital services than ever before.
According to the research findings from Google, Temasek Holdings Pte and Bain & Co., 1 in 3 businesses believe that they would not have made it through the pandemic without evolving towards digital platforms.
The same research report also found that a total of 60 million new digital consumers have joined the internet economy since the start of the pandemic. The appetite for digital consumption has clearly taken on a whole new dimension in the wake of region-wide lockdowns and mandatory work-from-home arrangements. Given these circumstances, the study has found that more users across Southeast Asia are purchasing more services digitally than ever before.
According to the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), there are a number of exciting tech sectors that are poised to take off following the rise of digital consumption due to the pandemic. While some are still nascent, they are expected to see an accelerated rise that would rival last year’s best performing verticals who have reached unimaginable heights the likes of fintech, e-commerce and logistics.
Here are the sectors to keep an eye out for and why it has the potential to soar in our new normal.