Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Opening Ceremony of ITB Asia 2019

Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Opening Ceremony of ITB Asia 2019

Mr Michael Müller, Governing Mayor of Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany

Dr Christian Goke, Chief Executive Officer, Messe Berlin,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


1. I am pleased to join you this morning at the opening ceremony of ITB Asia. At last year’s ITB Asia, I was impressed by the scale of the event, as well as the active industry participation and the range of ideas discussed. ITB Asia has grown over the years, doubling its attendance since the show’s inception in 2008, to become Asia’s leading marketplace of ideas, concepts and products for the international travel industry.

2. ITB Asia has been instrumental in providing a premier networking and exhibition platform for industry players to forge new partnerships and strengthen business networks. I am therefore happy to announce that Singapore Tourism Board (STB) will be renewing their MOU with Messe-Berlin later today, to anchor ITB Asia in Singapore for another 3 years.

3. ITB Asia adds to the strong pipeline of business events in Singapore in key clusters such as Lifestyle, Innovation & Digital and Advanced Manufacturing. These events will support the sustained strong performance of our MICE industry and continue to generate opportunities for our workers and businesses. In 2018, Singapore welcomed close to 3 million BT-MICE visitors, a growth of about 12 per cent from 2017. Tourism receipts from BT-MICE rose by more than 7% to reach about 4.7 billion Singapore dollars in 2018, compared to the same period in 2017. We will continue to grow this sector; it plays to our strengths as a choice destination for quality events and supports our tourism strategy of increasing spending and yield.

4. Last year, I spoke about our strategies to invest in quality attractions and rejuvenate our tourism offerings, developing a vibrant events calendar, and attracting new visitor segments to grow value capture. Let me share where we are today and what further steps we intend to take.

Innovate to reinvent our tourism offerings

5. First, we must continue to innovate and reinvent our tourism offerings – be it our hardware and infrastructure, or our programming and capability development. The two integrated resorts in Singapore have announced earlier this year that they will be investing around nine billion Singapore dollars to expand their facilities and refresh their offerings. At Marina Bay Sands, we will see a new hotel tower and a 15,000-seat indoor entertainment arena, while at Resorts World Sentosa, we can look forward to additional hotel rooms and new attractions at Universal Studios and the S.E.A Aquarium will be expanded by three times to form the new Singapore Oceanarium.
6. We are making good progress in our efforts to rejuvenate major tourist destinations such as the Mandai Wildlife Park, Orchard Road and Sentosa. I recently visited Night at Orchard, a monthly showcase of interesting products and performances at the event spaces along Orchard Road, and was happy to see the buzz generated and the large number of visitors at the event. We will be transforming the Grange Road carpark site into a dedicated event and community space to strengthen our offerings in Orchard Road. Together with industry partners, we will bring the orchard back into Orchard Road and transform this precinct into a lifestyle destination that offers visitors a unique range of experiences. Down south, we are developing Sentosa and Pulau Brani into a premier leisure and tourism destination, as part of the new Greater Southern Waterfront district. We recently announced plans to redevelop Sentosa, linking the northern part of the island with the beaches in the southern area, as well as initiatives to work with island partners to organise more events and activities on Sentosa.

7. Besides infrastructure enhancements, we will also organise innovative events to keep our activity calendar fresh and appealing. For example, the Alex Blake Charlie Sessions will debut at Pasir Panjang Power Station in December this year. This day-long music festival will feature a strong female-fronted lineup with acclaimed names from the global indie scene.

Leveraging data to sharpen our strategies to increase yield

8. Second, we recognise that underpinning our efforts to grow our tourism sector and attract higher tourism spending is data. It is key to understanding our visitor markets and segments, preferences and patterns, which then allows us to sharpen our business strategies. In this regard, STB has developed in-house digital capabilities such as the Tourism Information and Services Hub, which provides the industry with real-time tourism content and services, and the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network, which consolidates and analyses tourism data. Leveraging these rich sources of data, STB will be looking for opportunities to develop and optimise our “twinning” strategies with cities in the region, as part of our efforts to attract new sources of tourists.

9. Aside from continuing to upgrade their in-house capabilities, STB has also inked partnerships with key digital players, such as with Alibaba and Grab, to develop richer data insights on high-yielding markets and customer segments. As part of their three-year strategic partnership inked during the Tourism Industry Conference 2019, STB and Alipay launched the “Passion Made Possible Privileges” or PMPP programme in August. Leveraging Alipay’s big data and analytics capabilities, PMPP identifies and incentivises Chinese tourists to spend more in Singapore through attractive privileges and deals from participating merchants. Based on early results, tourists using PMPP spent three times more than the average Alipay user in Singapore. PMPP users have also shared encouraging reviews that the programme works as a one-stop information portal featuring a wide range of offerings, allowing them to enjoy the best of Singapore.

Building capability within our industry

10. The value of innovation can only be unlocked if our industry has the capabilities and capacity to adopt these technologies. Thus, the third area I would like to touch on is how we must build the right capabilities to enable industry transformation. At the Tourism Industry Conference 2019, we shared that STB was developing a Tech College, focused on better preparing tourism businesses for the future. STB has collaborated with Singapore Management University on a series of courses developed specially for the industry, to be launched for Tech College from January 2020. The courses will cover business transformation, technology literacy and data literacy.
11. Another initiative that we shared earlier this year was the Singapore Tourism Accelerator, which will support companies with new ideas for the tourism sector. I am pleased to announce the launch of the first cohort of the Accelerator, which comprises nine companies from seven countries. These companies were selected from 161 applications received, and include two Singapore-based start-ups. One of them, Infinito, provides a technology that helps hotels optimise their pricing strategy to maximise revenues. Using AI, it can understand hotels’ decision-making process based on past actions, and execute pricing strategies on behalf of the hotels. We are optimistic that the Accelerator will enable the development of new technologies and innovative solutions to transform our tourism sector.


12. To conclude, the Singapore tourism sector has made good progress in the last year. But our work does not stop here. We will continue to pursue innovation and fresh new ideas to transform our tourism industry in response to changing trends, thus allowing us to grow our tourism sector and achieve higher tourism yield.

13. Today, we are already seeing interesting made-in-Singapore technology that has potential to transform aspects of the industry. For example, local startup TellM3 that participated in STB’s Hotel Innovation Challenge, is developing a first-of-its-kind technology to enable hotels to upsell, capture guest feedback and obtain guest movement data through hotel room key cards. I understand that they are currently prototyping these smart hotel key cards with an interactive screen for guests, and I look forward to see more of such innovative technology created and adopted by our industry. I would also like to encourage the industry to approach STB on ideas and partnerships to rejuvenate and push for new innovations in the Singapore tourism industry.

14. Finally, I would like to wish Messe-Berlin a successful event, and may all of you have a fruitful and enjoyable time at ITB Asia. Thank you.

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