Some money changers in Singapore see booming business, as travel takes off after borders reopen

Around 50 money changer shops had put their businesses on hold during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some money changers in Singapore see booming business, as travel takes off after borders reopen
Some money changers are enjoying 80 per cent more sales this festive season, as compared to last year.

SINGAPORE: The tills are ringing for money changers in Singapore.

Some are enjoying 80 per cent more sales this festive season, as compared to last year, thanks to a bigger appetite for travel after the reopening of borders.

But money changers are also counting the costs, such as higher overheads amid an ongoing labour crunch.

Mr Syed Habeeb’s shop is seeing streams of people wanting foreign bills for their vacations.

Currencies like the Malaysian ringgit, Thai baht, and Indonesian rupiah are in high demand.

Demand for the Turkish lira and UAE dirham is also up, as more Singaporeans explore such exotic destinations.

Higher rental costs and manpower shortage remain key concerns for money changers.

BORDERS REOPEN

“It’s very much a relief for us, compared to the last two years. Last year, there were a lot of restrictions for travelling,” said Mr Syed Habeeb, director of NewsCrest Exchange and vice president of the Money Changers Association.

“This year, after April, the government lifted so many restrictions, people started to travel.

“It’s very good now. For November, December, it’s a long holiday, it’s a school holiday, so people are travelling a lot.”

His shop is also getting more tourists, including those from Indonesia and India, as global travel demand takes off, but they are not back at pre-pandemic levels yet. These tourists account for about 20 per cent of his customers.

During this period last year, nearly all of his customers were Singapore residents.

The Money Changers Association said about a fifth of money changers in Singapore, or around 50 stores, had put their businesses on hold during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, things are starting to look up.

CONCERNS REMAIN

Already, 15 stores have resumed operations in the last three months, while another 25 shops are expected to return to the fray in the coming months.

Still, Mr Habeeb is concerned, as an expected economic slump and a new COVID-19 wave in China could all impact his income.

In addition, higher rental costs and manpower shortage remain key concerns.

Clifford Gems and Money Exchange, for instance, used to have 15 staff before the pandemic.

It is now down to nine and its owner is struggling to recruit more.

Mr Mohamed Rafeeq, owner of the money changer, said: “I need two more staff here with some experience in the money exchange business, but I can’t find them. It’s difficult to find at the moment.”

Despite these challenges, Mr Rafeeq remains hopeful.

If the COVID-19 situation continues to improve, he believes business can once again reach pre-pandemic highs next year.

Source: CNA/ca