OPENING SPEECH BY MR CHEE HONG TAT, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE, FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY & EDUCATION, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF ITB ASIA 2018, ON 17 OCTOBER 9.00AM, MARINA BAY SANDS SINGAPORE
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning, I am delighted to join you at the opening ceremony of ITB Asia. It is the 11th time Singapore is hosting this leading travel trade event in Asia. Over the next three days, we expect to welcome more than 11,000 foreign and local visitors from the travel and tourism industry. The attendance has almost doubled since the show’s inception in 2008. Congratulations to the organisers, well done!
Strategic Importance of Anchoring Quality MICE Events in Singapore
2. With Asia Pacific accounting for close to a quarter of the world’s total tourist arrivals in 2017, key travel trade events such as ITB Asia are instrumental in providing a premier networking and exhibition platform for industry players in this region to forge new partnerships and strengthen your business networks.
3. Singapore is proud to be a choice destination for quality events, including ITB Asia. We achieved 9.2 million visitor arrivals to Singapore in the first half of 2018, a 7.7% increase over the same period in 2017. About 1.3 million or 15% of the visitors were here for Business Travel and Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conventions and Exhibitions (BTMICE), contributing S$2.2 billion or 22% of our total tourism receipts.
4. Just this September, Singapore was named "Best BTMICE City 2018" by TTG Travel Awards. This recognition is only possible with the close collaboration between our industry players and the Government. We will continue to work hard and look for areas where we can improve and do even better.
ITB Asia’s Efforts to Continually Renew Its Content
5. Messe Berlin’s efforts to renew the content of ITB Asia is a good example of how industry players can regularly refresh your offerings to remain competitive.
6. This year, ITB Asia will launch its first dedicated Muslim Travel Pavilion. This is in line with the growing Muslim travel market, where the number of Muslim travellers worldwide is expected to increase by 30% from 2016 to 2020, reaching more than 150 million. Through this platform, delegates will be able to share insights and best practices on how to attract more Muslim travellers.
Showcasing Local Enterprises at ITB Asia
7. Large scale trade events like ITB Asia are important platforms for our local enterprises to establish their presence on the international stage. This year, more than 40 local exhibitors including hotels, travel agents and travel technology providers are participating in ITB Asia to share more about their innovative product offerings.
8. One of our local exhibitors is BeMyGuest, which started as a tour activity and attraction aggregator. Through its new technology solution called Xplore, BeMyGuest is now able to provide the travel trade supplier community with a smart, flexible e-commerce platform to create a more seamless user experience for their customers. This helps to drive conversion and sales. BeMyGuest is here with us at ITB Asia, and I encourage you to drop by their booth to check it out.
Strategies to Grow our Tourism Sector
Reinventing our Tourist Attractions through Continued Investments
9. I am glad to see that our industry has been proactive in implementing new products, enhanced services and productivity improvements. The Government will support you in your transformation efforts. We are also constantly reviewing our tourism strategies to see how we can further enhance Singapore's attractiveness as a destination for different groups of visitors.
10. Our overall strategy has three main thrusts. The first is to continue investing in quality attractions and reinventing our tourism offerings. In a highly competitive global tourism market, we need to offer attractive reasons for tourists to visit Singapore, and to return for subsequent visits after their initial experience in Singapore. Let me share some examples.
11. Orchard Road is Singapore’s main shopping belt. Like the shopping belts in Fifth Avenue (New York), Oxford Street (London) and Ginza (Tokyo), this typically means rows of boutiques and malls along a main thoroughfare. We believe Orchard Road can be more than this. Orchard Road can go beyond a road, to be an orchard in the city. It can be more than a shopping district to include a range of exciting activities and unique attractions that appeal to visitors, both tourists and locals. It can be a green oasis in the city centre, a place where visitors can immerse themselves in an urban garden and enjoy a comfortable stroll through lush greenery which runs through the entire precinct like a green spine. It can also be an innovation district where we encourage companies, start-ups and social entrepreneurs to test out their ideas in areas such as new retail concepts, urban logistics and environmental sustainability, using Orchard Road as a living lab. We are currently formulating our plans together with URA and LTA, as well as business owners and industry players. When these plans are ready, we will present them in greater detail and invite further views from stakeholders.
12. Sentosa Island is another major tourism attraction in Singapore, with its unique positioning as an island-in-the-city with an array of novel experiences in one place. Sentosa is where the Trump-Kim Summit was held earlier this year. It is also the location of Resorts World Sentosa, which is one of our two integrated resorts and home to Universal Studios Singapore. Enjoyed by around 19 million locals and tourists annually, Sentosa is constantly rejuvenating itself to remain competitive. We are currently developing a comprehensive set of plans to reshape the entire island and provide more scope for new attractions and investments on Sentosa. As the container ports at Tanjong Pagar will be moving out from the City in the coming decade, Government agencies are drawing up development plans for Pulau Brani and the Greater Southern Waterfront. This expanded canvas, which is as large as Sentosa Island itself, provides exciting opportunities for us to develop new tourism attractions and anchor this precinct as the Southern Gateway of Asia.
Developing a Vibrant Events Calendar
13. Even as we invest in new attractions and infrastructure, we will also continue to develop a vibrant and perse events calendar, to bring in more visitors to Singapore throughout the year.
14. One way that STB builds up a compelling events pipeline is to attract best-in-class events and premium branded content to Singapore. Last month, Singapore hosted the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix for the eleventh year. Lewis Hamilton, who won a fantastic victory in Singapore, described our night race as "Monaco on steroids". F1 has established itself as an iconic event that not only appeals to sports fans, but also to a wide range of visitors with its exciting lifestyle and entertainment offerings surrounding the F1 weekend.
15. Another example is STB’s three-year collaboration with Disney which allows us to create exciting events and experiences incorporating themes such as Star Wars, Marvel, Disney Animation and Disney-Pixar. Each year, we will transform Orchard Road into a land of wonder known as "Christmas on a Great Street", with Christmas lights, decorations, entertainment and pop-up stores. The event is popular with local visitors and tourists, and attracted more than 1.2 million tourists in 2017. This year, we are collaborating with Disney to present “Disney Magical Moments”, which will feature Disney’s largest Christmas street light-up in South-east Asia.
Attracting New Visitor Segments and Growing Value Capture
16. The second thrust of our tourism strategy is on how we can attract new visitor segments to come to Singapore, and increase the spending during their stay here. This will lead to higher yield and value-capture. We have done well thus far – in 2017, visitor arrivals reached a record high of 17.4 million, and tourism receipts also reached a record high of S$26.8 billion. But we are not resting on our laurels. We plan to harness the power of technology and data analytics, to enable us to attract new visitors, encourage them to stay longer as well as spend more while they are here.
17. The Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (Stan) is an example of how Government will help the industry to make good use of technology and data. Stan consolidates and analyses all the tourism data that we have, including visitor arrivals, modes of travel, spending and movement patterns, website traffic and hotel industry information.
18. Stan has been rolled out within STB, and we plan to progressively roll out Stan to the industry. I am encouraging STB to do this as soon as possible, and to do so in phases so that we can get feedback from industry users to help us improve the subsequent development.
19. In this next phase of Stan, we aim to help companies upgrade their data analytics capabilities so that they can better meet changing consumer demands, target their customers more effectively, and deliver more seamless and personalised experiences. In particular, Stan will benefit SMEs which may lack economies of scale to invest in their own data capabilities.
Partnering with Stakeholders for Innovation
20. The third thrust of our tourism strategy is to forge strong partnerships with industry stakeholders. By working together, we can pool our ideas and resources to co-create innovative solutions that can enhance our competitiveness and grow our tourism sector. Indeed, a key strength of Singapore's development has been our strong tripartite partnership over the years, involving government, employers and the unions.
21. STB has provided funding support for Tourism Innovation Challenges where companies are brought together to develop clear problem statements, and develop innovative solutions to address industry needs. We have embarked on this for Hotels and Travel Agents, and to date, more than 20 solutions have been developed for these two industries. Just last month, STB launched the MICE Innovation Challenge, in partnership with the Singapore Association of Conference and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers. Such initiatives benefit our local SMEs and technology companies as they could participate in these challenges as solutions providers, and use these opportunities to build up their track records.
22. The Amara Hotel Group is one of our pilot hotels under the Hotel Innovation Challenge. Amara will be one of the first to implement a mobile application incorporating facial recognition technology, to allow guests to perform self-check-in and access their room via their mobile phones. This not only improves the guest experience but also achieves higher productivity at the front office. We are glad to have Amara here with us today at ITB Asia, to showcase their Asia properties.
23. The Government also recognises the importance of working closely with the industry to review rules and processes. For example, STB has reviewed the process for tourist guide licence applications and renewals together with industry stakeholders and reduced the number of steps by about one-third. STB will launch the streamlined process together with a new online portal in Q2 2019.
24. One other area of partnership is in the training and development of our workers. STB will continue to partner tourism associations, industry training providers, Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and employers, to build a quality tourism workforce. For example, STB supported SACEOS to develop internationally accredited courses that meet the training needs of the MICE industry. Another example is how Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre (SHATEC) has been working closely with SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and the industry to incorporate relevant emerging skills in its programme curricula for hospitality and related courses.
25. Ladies and gentlemen, the Government remains committed to growing our tourism sector to create economic opportunities for our companies and generate good jobs for our people. We will continue to invest in new attractions and reinvent our tourism offerings. We will work with the industry to harness data and technology as our companies transform their operations and look at new ways of enhancing their products and services. And last but not least, we will continue to forge strong partnerships with the industry to create a pro-enterprise, pro-innovation business environment in Singapore.
26. We are passionate about growing our tourism sector. While the road ahead is not without its challenges, our passion gives us the courage to come up with ambitious plans and the resilience to take risks and sustain our journey. We are determined to succeed and we will bring our passion to life. This is why our rally call in Singapore is "Passion Made Possible".
27. I would like to wish everyone a fruitful time at ITB Asia 2018, and hope that our foreign delegates could find time to enjoy what Singapore has to offer during your stay here.
28. Thank you.
 The tourism receipts (TR) figures cited here exclude TR on Sightseeing, Entertainment and Gaming.