Progressive steps is the order of the day when it comes to border reopening for Singapore, but the country's top leaders are urging a swifter transformation and reinvention of the tourism landscape in order to capture the opportunities moving forward.
This message was conveyed loud and clear at the Tourism Industry Conference (TIC) on 7 April, when Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said, “We are not waiting for a full reopening. Singapore is prepared to disrupt the status quo, transform our products and services, and harness our capabilities to capture the next lap of growth.
Singapore is prepared to disrupt the status quo, transform our products and services, and harness our capabilities to capture the next lap of growth.
“As we push forward in 2021, the challenge that lies ahead is not recovery within this year or even next year, but how Singapore will prepare for long-term success and reinvent global travel,” he added.
Keith Tan, chief executive of Singapore Tourism Board (STB), encouraged the industry to answer the minister’s challenge. “We don’t expect tourism to return at scale anytime soon but it will return and we must be ready to capture growth when it returns.”
The two leaders said two key themes – sustainability and technological transformation – present opportunities for Singapore in the long term.
The government's vision is to position Singapore “as a top sustainable and innovative urban destination” and it wants to be the “best place to test-bed sustainable tourism products and experiences”.
As well, Tan asked if Singapore could also build up its position as a leading urban wellness haven, where wellness offerings and experiences are integrated into the daily life? “This is a serious challenge as “wellness” is not a top of mind association with Singapore yet,” said Tan. Other cities are stepping up, he said, mentioning The Living Room by the Octave Institute in Shanghai and Bellecel in London.
In the area of technology, Tan challenged the industry, “Can Singapore become a thriving marketplace that brings together the most innovative and promising technology solution providers on the one hand and the most forward looking, tech-savvy tourism companies on the other hand?”
Singapore Tourism Accelerator programme will be extended to September 2023, as well as a top up of the Tourism Development Fund and enhanced support levels until the end of March 2022.
Don't let a crisis go to waste
“Don’t lose the gains that you have made and make sure you keep innovating and expanding your repertoire so that there is much more to offer to international visitors when they come back to Singapore,” said Tan, as he issued a rallying cry on the industry to “keep this creativity coming”.
The Year of No Travel may well be “one of the most fertile periods” in the Singapore tourism sector, with new products, experiences and bundled packages such as dog cruises to paranormal tours to gamified murder mystery tours being launched to attract a domestic market and supported by STB's SingapoRediscover vouchers.
Don’t lose the gains that you have made and make sure you keep innovating and expanding your repertoire.
New projects are in the works. Tan announced three new attractions – Museum of Ice Cream, the popular US-based attraction will open its first location outside the US in second half of 2021; Slingshot, Asia’s tallest slingshot, a new thrill ride concept, opening later this year at Clarke Quay; and SkyHelix Sentosa, Singapore’s first open air panoramic attraction that allows visitors scenic views of Sentosa and Sentosa waterfront, opening 2022.
To prepare the industry for digital transformation, Tcube was also launched on Wednesday. It will help businesses in a three-step Learn-Test-Build framework. Companies can do self-assessment with the Tourism Transformation Index (TXI) and get recommendations on how to transform.
The Singapore Tourism Accelerator programme, launched in 2019, helps test solutions and to date, it has supported 21 startups to develop 35 industry solutions. It will extend the Accelerator to September 2023. Under “Build”, STB has developed a suite of smart services such as Tourism Information and Services Hub (TIH) and Stan.
To help the industry survive “this long winter”, more financial support schemes are being rolled out and extended. It will top up the Tourism Development Fund (TDF) by S$68.5 million and enhanced support levels until the end of March 2022.
This will include the Business Improvement Fund (BIF) and the Training Industry Professionals in Tourism (TIP-IT) grant. STB will also launch SG Stories Content Fund Season 2 next week, a continuation of its scheme to encourage content creators to tell authentic Singapore stories to inspire travel to Singapore. A second edition of the Marketing Partnership Programme will be launched this year.
Additional reporting from Yeoh Siew Hoon, WebinTravel.