Singapore Airlines is keen to restart its direct service to Canberra but the carrier is still rebuilding its international network after the pandemic, according to Chief Minister Andrew Barr, back from leading the ACT’s latest trade mission to the island state.
Mr Barr said the issue of direct flights and what the ACT could do to restore the link was raised at almost every meeting during last week’s visit.
“Their major challenge, like most airlines, is recruiting and training the additional staff necessary to expand their operations,” Mr Barr said.
“This may take a little time.”
He said a return to near pre-COVID levels of international travel across their network would help.
“For example, the Chinese and Japanese markets are currently still well below pre-COVID levels,” Mr Barr said.
But he described the reception the airline gave the delegation as very warm and positive.
“The CEO and their most senior management team attended the meeting,” Mr Barr said.
“I took the opportunity to thank the airline for continuing to fly to Australia during the worst of the pandemic.”
The Singapore Government and Singapore Airlines also helped supply Australia with COVID vaccines when the country really needed them, Mr Barr said.
The airline indicated that direct services between Singapore and Canberra were preferred over triangulated or circular services via other cities.
Overall, Mr Barr said the mission made good progress in developing trade links and relationships with Singapore, with a particular interest in food, tourism and information technology.
“The mission was a great opportunity to promote Canberra exporters and encourage further collaboration in the Singapore market,” he said.
Mr Barr said there was unexpected interest in what organic and bespoke food and beverage products the Canberra region could provide to Singapore, which is keen to shore up its food security.
This should provide export opportunities to several high-end providers in the Canberra region, Mr Barr said.
The ACT’s reputation as a clean, green city also attracted attention from a tourism perspective.
“Quite a few tourism operators also expressed an interest in partnership opportunities to learn about sustainable travel and the opportunities to spruik the environmental and climate action credentials of the ACT as a destination,” Mr Barr said.
The delegation returned with a number of achievements.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Kambah-based AgriGate and High Quality Meats Singapore.
AgriGate specialises in exporting primary produce to Asian markets, mainly through Singapore, while High Quality Meats processes carcasses to the specifications of Asian markets.
Canberra-based IT firm ArchTIS, which specialises in secure information sharing, signed an agreement with Singaporean businesses i-Sprint and STE (Singapore Technologies Engineering).
i-Sprint is its first partner in Singapore and ASEAN distributor, while STE is a global technology company with a diverse spread of interests, including smart cities, aerospace, engineering, defence and security.
The delegation visited Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic Cyber Training Security Operations Centre to see whether a similar facility at the new CIT campus in Woden could benefit Canberra industry.
“We will seek to collaborate further with student and teacher exchanges as one possible example,” Mr Barr said.
The mission also renewed the 2017 MOU Agreement between the National Arboretum and the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which includes the expansion of the Botanic Gardens of Canberra’s Sister City, Wellington.
Mr Barr said the agreement allows for joint academic activity, exchange of research and staff, joint training, exchange of information and materials, joint research projects, organisation of joint conferences and workshops, as well as membership to each other’s respective botanical organisations.
There were also tourism opportunities through working with each of the partners’ ‘Friends’ organisations.
The delegation found interest in developing Build-to-Rent projects in Canberra, which are seen as part of the answer to boosting much-needed housing in the national capital.
Mr Barr said the government would host follow-up site visits from potential investors.
The mission partnered with Tourism Australia, Austrade and the Australian High Commission to make tourism and investment presentations.
“We expect to host investors travelling to Canberra over the coming months to take a closer look at the opportunities presented,” Mr Barr said.
The next trade mission will be to New Zealand and the Pacific in spring.