Ladies and gentlemen,
1 Good afternoon. I am pleased to join you today at the Singapore Tourism Awards 2021. While it is unfortunate that we are unable to meet in person, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations not only to the award finalists and recipients, but also to all our tourism stakeholders, for your exemplary performance, resilience and dedication during this pandemic.
Tourism businesses have shown resilience during COVID-19 in re-imagining experiences
2 The last 18 months have been an unprecedented and difficult time for all of us. Border restrictions and Safe Management Measures (SMMs), while necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep our community safe, have inevitably impacted Singapore’s tourism sector.
3 Yet, despite the challenges, our tourism businesses have demonstrated extraordinary passion, resilience, and ingenuity to re-imagine their offerings and experiences.
a. With restrictions on international travel, many firms, including our finalists this evening, adapted their business models and products to cater to a local audience. They presented new experiences and opportunities for Singaporeans to rediscover our island, while expanding the suite of offerings for international visitors in preparation for the time when travel resumes.
b. Virtual experiences and hybrid events are also here to stay. Technology will provide new revenue streams and enable business continuity for our tourism businesses. Some of our finalists have successfully found innovative solutions by combining virtual and holographic components with in-person events.
4 I was also grateful to tourism businesses that stepped up to support nationwide efforts in the fight against the pandemic, with a number of hotels serving as Quarantine or Stay-Home Notice facilities.
5 As we prepare to live with endemic COVID-19, we should expect changes in consumer behaviour, some of which may be permanent. Tourism businesses must continue to be nimble and creative to thrive in this evolving environment.
6 The Singapore Tourism Board will continue to support your efforts to experiment with new ideas and test-bed innovative concepts.
a. First, the Singapore Tourism Accelerator supports the development of innovative solutions for local tourism businesses. To date, it has supported 34 start-ups to develop 44 industry solutions and is now in its fourth cohort.
b. Second, the Tourism Experience Innovation Lab (TEIL) encourages tour operators and travel agents to reimagine tour experiences in Singapore and provide more compelling offerings for locals and international visitors. STB will work closely with tour operators to provide consultancy support and mentorship, support product development, and facilitate partnerships and relevant regulatory approvals.
c. Third, the Marketing Partnership Programme assists the industry in reaching out to new audiences with innovative offerings by providing funding to companies to drive local and international demand.
Roadmap for recovery of the tourism sector
7 These continued efforts will put Singapore’s tourism sector on a strong footing as we prepare for recovery.
8 With enhanced testing and contact tracing abilities as well as increasing vaccination rates, we can look forward to our tourism reopening roadmap over the next few months.
a. Capacity limits at our tourism businesses will gradually be raised, albeit with robust SMMs in place.
b. As we get ready to welcome international visitors back in a safe and calibrated manner, STB will work with the industry to navigate new safe travel requirements.
i. One idea is developing “Safe Itineraries” for group travellers, which will deliver quality, bespoke experiences, while ensuring SMMs and health requirements are adhered to. More details on this will be announced in due course.
9 We take heart that leisure and business travellers continue to perceive Singapore as a safe destination, despite the ongoing pandemic.
a. According to STB’s Brand Health Study, leisure and BTMICE travellers continues to hold a strong perception of Singapore as a safe destination to visit.
b. Singapore was recently also ranked by Bloomberg as the best place in the world to be during the pandemic.
c. The SG Clean Quality Mark will give locals and visitors added peace of mind when they visit our tourism businesses. To date, STB has issued more than 1,400 SG Clean Quality Mark certificates to tourism-related premises, including leisure and MICE venues.
10 We will continue to leverage this confidence in Singapore as a safe destination to galvanise the recovery of our tourism sector. Let me outline some of our plans for the MICE industry.
a. First, we will continue to raise confidence in Singapore’s ability to host safe, trusted, and innovative MICE events on a large scale, as demonstrated by the successful pilots of large-scale hybrid events such as TravelRevive and Geo Connect Asia 2021. If the situation allows, STB will progressively resume larger-scale events with rigorous protocols and innovative solutions in place.
b. Second, we will help business event organisers rethink their offerings and operations. STB recently launched a white paper to take stock of how various sectors within the MICE industry have transformed in response to COVID-19 and to consolidate ideas from around the world.
c. Third, we will step up efforts to market Singapore as a MICE destination known for Safety, Innovation, and Trust, to rebuild short to mid-term interest in Singapore among MICE event planners.
11 I am confident that the tourism sector can continue to build on the strong fundamentals that make Singapore an attractive destination for leisure and MICE experiences. We are in a good position to emerge stronger from COVID-19.
Capturing growth opportunities as borders reopen for travel
12 As more countries prepare to live with endemic COVID-19 and open up their borders, and with higher vaccination rates in Singapore and around the world, travel by year-end may be a possibility. We can reconnect with the world with effective safeguards in place.
13 We will work with countries and regions with high vaccination rates and good control over the pandemic to explore opportunities for travel.
a. STB will continue to collaborate with key agencies and stakeholders to capture new growth opportunities. Our longstanding partnerships with Changi Airport Group and Singapore Airlines will enable seamless and memorable experiences for our visitors, even in a post-pandemic world.
b. Our regulations, policies and protocols between the tourism and aviation sectors must also be aligned to support the wider reopening of our borders to overseas visitors. In this regard, I have asked Minister for Transport Mr Iswaran to help oversee more aspects of the tourism portfolio.
14 While we prepare for the recovery of Singapore’s tourism industry, we must keep in mind that it remains vulnerable to future pandemics. We must continue to refine the necessary precautions and safeguards that keep visitors safe, while reimagining new ways to keep our tourism sector resilient and maintain Singapore’s attractiveness as a destination. Let us harness all our energy, resources and creativity to transit to and thrive in this new world.
15 Congratulations again to all the STA finalists and recipients on your achievements, and thank you to all our stakeholders for soldiering on with us to chart a new way forward for the tourism sector.
16 Thank you.