Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you here today at the 5th Hotel Industry Conference, jointly organised by the Singapore Hotel Association and Singapore Tourism Board. This annual conference is an important platform for our hotels and STB to come together, to discuss how we can collectively seize opportunities and navigate challenges on the horizon.
Importance of the hotel industry
2. The hotel industry is a key pillar of Singapore’s tourism sector. In the first half of 2019, total gazetted room revenue rose by 1.7 percent to reach S$1.9 billion.
3. Since 2015, nominal value-added per worker has also grown 4.5 percent annually, which exceeds the 2020 target of 2 percent that was set out in the Hotel Industry Transformation Map (ITM). The close partnership between SHA and STB to encourage greater technology adoption, foster business innovation and support job redesign efforts certainly had a role to play in this. Much credit has to go to our hotels who have taken the initiative to find and develop new solutions, to overcome the challenges of a slower workforce growth.
4. Looking ahead, there are concerns about the global economy, especially in light of ongoing geo-political tensions and the rise of trade protectionism. This has affected Singapore’s overall economic growth and different sectors of our economy. Nonetheless, as I have shared on previous occasions, the Government is firmly committed to reinventing our tourism offerings and building stronger capabilities in our tourism sector, so that Singapore can remain an attractive place to visit and our tourism sector can continue to grow. The two Integrated Resorts are expanding with a combined investment quantum of more than $9 billion, creating around 5,000 direct jobs in the process. We are also rejuvenating key tourist destinations such as the Mandai Wildlife Park, Orchard Road, and Sentosa.
5. Our hotels are important partners to grow the tourism sector. We must press on with the tripartite efforts to strengthen our industry capabilities and upskill our workforce. These will also put us in a better position to tide over challenging times and seize new opportunities when the economy recovers.
6. Today, I would like to highlight two areas that we should continue to focus on: (1) First, to leverage technology to transform business operations and improve productivity; and (2) Second, to attract, retain and upskill talent to drive sustainable industry growth.
Leverage technology to transform business operations
7. The tourism industry has made good progress in leveraging technology to improve operations thus far, but we cannot rest on our laurels.
Towards a more seamless check-in experience
8. A common piece of feedback that we have heard from our hotels is about the check-in process, which can be quite labour-intensive, as there are security-related regulatory requirements to comply with.
9. I am happy to announce the launch of a new initiative, the E-Visitor Authentication System, or EVA, today. EVA will enable faster guest verification and allow participating hotels to provide a more seamless check-in experience for their customers.
10. Today, hotels have to deploy staff at check-in counters to check passports to confirm that the individual’s face matches the passport photo, and to verify that they are in the country legally. Some hotels have implemented self-check-in kiosks with facial recognition technologies to automate the first task, but not the second.
11. With EVA, both tasks can now be automated. The facial recognition technology used in the self-check-in system can verify the identity of the guest by matching his face against his passport photograph, while EVA will send guest data to ICA to verify the validity of their stay.
12. Eliminating manual checks on travel documents will reduce check-in time by 70%. This translates to more than 11,000 hours saved annually for a large hotel, and offers an opportunity for hotels to redesign front office jobs so that staff can spend more time engaging guests in meaningful ways, such as personalising offerings and experiences. Introducing a seamless check-in process, which is the first touchpoint for guests staying at a hotel, will therefore give a positive first impression for the rest of their stay and contribute to an enhanced in-destination experience. I encourage interested hotels to approach STB to find out more about how you can come onboard this arrangement.
Hotel Innovation Challenge
13. I am also glad to know that we have seen good results from the second Hotel Innovation Challenge, launched in April this year. For this edition, STB and SHA sharpened the focus to address key pain points in the areas of housekeeping, HR management, and data utilisation. 18 new solutions have been shortlisted, with 18 hotels agreeing to pilot them.
14. One example of a solution catalysed by this year’s Hotel Innovation Challenge is a Dynamic Manpower Scheduling System, which will be developed by SIMTech, an A*Star Research Institute. The solution is a web-based manpower allocation system that will allow hotels to automate manpower rostering, in response to dynamic hotel demand. While the current rostering systems are only able to schedule employees within a department, this new solution will allow hotels to deploy employees more efficiently across multiple departments and functions. This will be particularly beneficial to hotels which have redesigned jobs and equipped employees with multiple skill sets.
Digital Resources for Hotels
15. Leveraging technology to transform business operations is not an easy task. Different hotels have different needs, and with a wide array of solutions available in the market, it can be challenging to identify the best fit for your hotel. To guide the technology adoption process, the Hotel Innovation Committee (or HIC) is launching the second edition of the Smart Hotel Technology Guide, which focuses on how heart-of-house operations can be streamlined using technology, through case studies of hotels that have successfully done so.
16. Complementing the Smart Hotel Technology Guide is the launch of the Hotel Industry Digital Plan, or IDP, with support from STB and IMDA. The IDP is an online public resource to guide hotels on digital solutions they can adopt at each stage of their business growth to enhance digital capabilities, optimise operations, and build a smart ecosystem driven by data to propel intelligent businesses. It includes illustrations on how hotels can incorporate STB’s Technology Resources, such as the Tourism Information and Services Hub, in their solutions to provide a seamless travel experience for visitors. Hotels can find information on the available training by SkillsFuture Singapore, aligned to the Skills Framework and emerging areas under the SkillsFuture Series, to upskill employees to support their transformation journey.
Upskill and Retain Talent
17. Technology is not meant to replace workers, but to augment them and enable our workers to operate more effectively. The aim is to enhance the capabilities of our workers, so that they can take on higher-value roles which are more productive and earn better wages over time.
18. One important initiative is job re-design. I am pleased to know that over a hundred hotels have pledged to embark on this under the Hotel Job Redesign Initiative, which encourages and enables hoteliers to review, optimise and value-add to existing jobs in their establishments, to create greater job satisfaction amongst employees. To further support hotels in their efforts, WSG will be introducing the new Job Redesign Place-and-Train Programme for the Hotel Industry to help hotels reskill and upskill existing workers for redesigned job roles. Through the programme, hotels can receive up to 70% of salary support for the training duration. I strongly encourage our hotels to work with WSG to customise their training plans, which can comprise up to 100% on-the-job training.
19. One example of job redesign is by Sheraton Towers Singapore. The hotel upgraded their F&B Captains to F&B Assistant Managers, creating an expanded job scope that commands higher wages, with a salary increase of 10 to 20%. In addition to serving guests in restaurants, employees in this new role are also trained in handling audio-visual equipment and banqueting services.
20. While the hotel industry has made good progress in the last year, we are not done growing this sector to create more exciting job opportunities for our people.
21. The Government must continue to work hand-in-hand with hotels and SHA to develop fresh ideas and build strong capabilities to stay ahead of the competition and keep pace with emerging trends. We can do this by harnessing the power of technology. In service industries such as hotels, the personal touch is still important, so the key question is how we can deploy technology appropriately to augment our manpower capabilities, and enhance service quality. This will be a key differentiating factor that will help us to stay ahead of the competition.
22. Thank you all for coming today, and I hope today’s conference yields invaluable insights that you can apply to the transformation of your operations. I wish you all a fruitful and enjoyable time this afternoon. Thank you.