Mr Desmond Choo: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) what are the expected structural changes to the hospitality sector over the near to medium term; and (b) what is the expected impact on skills and the workforce.
Written Answer by Minister for Trade & Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing
1. 2020 was a challenging year for our tourism sector, which was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hotel industry, which had been on a healthy growth trajectory over the past decade (from 2009 to 2019), was not spared. Even with the development of several vaccines, it will take time for mass leisure travel and traveller confidence to return. We expect tourism arrivals to remain weak in 2021. The outlook for growth and employment in the hotel industry is hence expected to remain weak in the near term.
2. Despite these near-term challenges, we remain confident in the long-term prospects of Singapore’s tourism sector. The fundamentals which make Singapore an attractive place for leisure, MICE experiences, and a key business hub remain unchanged. The hotel industry is well-positioned to emerge stronger from this crisis as it transforms itself, learning from the COVID-19 pandemic. First, given the heightened awareness of health and safety, hotels are restructuring their guest journey and experience – including the adoption of contactless and frictionless solutions and other digital technologies. This will create new roles to drive digital transformation in hotels. Second, COVID-19 has also spurred hotels to innovate, with the growth of hybrid experiences and increased focus on wellness and sustainability.
3. With these innovations, it will be important for hotels to enhance their core capabilities and build emerging skillsets, such as sustainability management and experience design. For example, the Ascott Limited created a new multi-faceted role of ‘lyf guards’ at one of its newest concepts, lyf. Unlike conventional hotel job roles, lyf guards are multi-skilled employees who are community managers, as well as city and food guides. The multi-skilling of lyf guards not only allows Ascott to achieve a lean manning structure, but also attract a new generation of workers with changing career aspirations. This is made possible through well-defined career progression which includes a path to future leadership role within the organisation, as well as ample training and development opportunities.
4. Since the start of the outbreak, government agencies have worked with the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) and the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers Union (FDAWU) to step up support for hotels in upskilling their workforce and redesigning jobs. For example, compared to 2019, the number of trainees funded under STB’s Training Industry Professionals in Tourism (TIP-iT) scheme more than doubled in 2020. STB also granted over 130 SkillsFuture Study Awards to employees in the tourism sector in 2020, which is a two-fold increase compared to 2019.