Mr Yeo Li Pheow, Principal and CEO, Republic Polytechnic,
Mr Mike Barclay, Group CEO, Mandai Wildlife Group,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Students from the five Polytechnics and ITE,
1. Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to join you here again at ‘Tourism Transformation’, the 4th edition of the joint Poly-ITE career fair.
2. As the name of the event suggests, much has changed and evolved over the last two years. In 2019, it was held physically in Temasek Polytechnic, where career booths were set up and groups of students participated in the ‘Ideathon’ case competition. Today, we have adapted and embraced a hybrid style of communication and engagement as we meet via a Zoom conference.
COVID-19 and the Significance of Tourism Sector
3. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the tourism industry in many countries across the globe. In Singapore, while Safe Management Measures and border restrictions were vital in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring public safety, they have weighed on the tourism sector.
4. The importance of tourism goes beyond offering quality leisure options – it boosts and reinforces Singapore’s status as a global hub and serves as a conduit for businesses, capital, and talent.
5. The Government has set our path towards a new normal, including the opening our borders safely and progressively. Thankfully, our high vaccination rates, the steady rollout of the booster shots, and other existing measures have supported and will continue to support the easing of domestic and travel restrictions.
Key Trends in the Tourism Sector
6. Let me share three key trends that have impacted the tourism sector.
7. First, we expect tourism recovery to be gradual and it may take a few years before international visitor arrivals and tourism receipts return to pre-COVID levels. In the meantime, Singapore adopts a calibrated approach in easing travel restrictions. The launch of the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) last year was a significant first step towards reviving international travel and is a stepping stone for wider travel reopening. As the global situation remains uncertain with the emergence of the Omicron variant, we will continue to closely monitor and review our border measures regularly.
8. Second, we have seen how COVID-19 has accelerated the rise of the digital economy and transformed the way businesses and individuals connect with one another. It is essential for the industry to keep on leveraging technology and building new capabilities to offer safe, seamless, and novel travel experiences that enhance Singapore’s attractiveness as a tourism destination.
9. Third, the rise of environmental sustainability will continue to grow and offer fresh opportunities. Increasingly, businesses and individual travellers are looking forward to sustainable experiences. Beyond developing personalised tourism experiences and introducing new and refreshed attractions, businesses must consider how they may incorporate sustainability in their offerings.
10. With an eye on these trends, let me share how Singapore is reshaping and energising its tourism landscape.
Reshaping Singapore’s Tourism Landscape
Embrace Digital Transformation
11. Today, we have adopted innovations such as contactless technology, cleaning robots, and the TraceTogether app and token to enhance productivity and public cleanliness and safety. We have also recreated new experiences and conceived innovative possibilities with the use of technology and digital tools. Recognising that digital transformation is the way forward, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) introduced initiatives such as Tcube, a hybrid innovation space that brings digital initiatives, resources, and thought leadership content onto a single platform. In addition, we have the Tourism Accelerator Programme that supports companies in developing and piloting quality solutions with industry players. The NTUC, together with trade associations and chambers, has also launched the Tourism Sector Capability Development Roadmap to support businesses in their development of digital offerings and the upskilling of their workers to be future-ready.
Sustainable Tourism Destination
12. In line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030 announced by the Government last year, our vision is to be a City in Nature, where large experiences come with small footprints. This includes efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and the introduction of sustainable tourism offerings. Sentosa Development Corporation, which most of you should be familiar with, had launched its sustainability roadmap to double up efforts in transforming the island into a sustainable tourist destination. STB has also joined the Global Sustainable Tourism Council in October last year to contribute to efforts that advance sustainability in the global travel and tourism industry. With limited land resources, Singapore will do well by strengthening our position as a hub to draw partnerships and innovations to sharpen our competitive edge with sustainability.
Roles and Values of Tourism and Hospitality Graduates
13. As we reinforce Singapore’s value proposition as a sustainable and innovative tourist destination, students like you have a big role to play, when you graduate or even now, during your internships.
14. Today, the tourism and hospitality courses offered by the Polytechnics and ITEs aim to better equip our students with the relevant skills and expertise needed in the market. Through industry placements and immersion programmes, you will gain valuable industry exposure and insights that will equip you for your future career in the tourism sector.
15. In addition to Mr Yeo’s earlier sharing, the schools have also introduced new course modules that pivot towards digital and hybrid hospitality management as well as sustainability. You will have the opportunity to immerse yourselves in augmented and virtual reality, and at the same time, be familiar with a wide variety of green efforts that aim to reduce carbon footprint. These are the key domains which we will observe significant developments in the near future.
16. As Gen Z and digital natives, I am confident you will contribute to our next phase of digital transformation as we continue to evolve our tourism strategies for the future. We look forward to your youthful energy and passion to fuel creative offerings and innovative skills in this important sector of Singapore’s economy.
17. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the tourism sector co-ordination team and industry partners for your continued support of the Tourism Transformation career fair.
18. To all our students, I hope you will embark on your career in tourism with a great head-start. May you take home valuable lessons from the breakout sessions later where industry experts and leaders will share their rich anecdotes and enlightening experiences.
19. I wish everyone all the best in your endeavours and a very Happy Lunar New Year.
20. Thank you.