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Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at the STB-SHA Hotel Sustainability Conference

Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at the STB-SHA Hotel Sustainability Conference

Ms. Kwee Wei-Lin, President, Singapore Hotel Association

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural Hotel Sustainability Conference and Marketplace. I am happy to be able to join you in person today. 

2. Today’s event is a significant milestone in the Singapore hotel industry’s sustainability journey. Why? It provides us with a timely opportunity to envision a greener future, not just for ourselves but for our children too. 

3. What would a green hotel look like? We envision one that is built in green buildings constructed using sustainable materials. One that not only adopts practices of green living practices, but also deploys smart automated solutions to optimise resources such as energy and water. One that works with innovation partners to pilot and test-bed the next generation of sustainability solutions, and nudges hotel guests to be environmentally conscious travellers. 

4. This is not merely a pipe dream made up of far-fetched ideas. This can be a reality across all hotels here in Singapore. And we have the common vision and will to act. 

The COVID-19 pandemic presents strong opportunities for transformation

5. The past two years have been challenging for tourism globally. Singapore’s tourism sector, including hotels, were not spared from the impact of the travel bans and tightened borders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

6. Weilin, Keith, members from SHA, STB, and many agencies, and I have visited our hotels and tourism businesses on the ground, to do what we can to support our people and businesses; take on feedback, come up with ideas and schemes to help us tide over. Everywhere that we went, we saw the resilience of our hotel industry. Many hotels stepped up to serve as government facilities in the nation’s time of need. Hotels also innovatively tailored their offerings to target and better serve the local market.

7. Today, Singapore is in a much better position to deal with the pandemic, with high vaccination and booster rates of our population. We must now shift our focus to set in place strong foundations for us to build a COVID-19 resilient nation and thrive in a post-pandemic economy. To do so, the Government is committed to Singapore’s safe and progressive reopening as soon as viable.

a. As an open and connected global economy, we must reassert Singapore’s position as a leading destination and hub for leisure and business. The introduction of Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) have been an important first step toward our goal to allow quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travellers, to restore our connectivity with the world.

b. More recently, the Multi-Ministry Task Force implemented streamlined safe management measures to make it easier for businesses and individuals to understand and follow.

c. Moving forward, as we continue to push forward to reopen our borders safely and progressively, we will also ramp up efforts in our key source markets to inspire visitors to travel to Singapore. 

8. The pandemic has brought about fundamental changes to how we live, work and play. It has also accelerated the evolution of our visitors’ travel preferences. 

9. One key trend that has emerged is the rise of “conscious travellers” who are more actively focused on connecting more meaningfully and creating positive impact in the communities that they visit. Around the world, over 80% of travellers now believe that sustainable travel is important, and they are willing to pay more for sustainable accommodation options.

10. We are already seeing other destinations and hotels around the world embrace sustainability. 

a. Starwood Capital Group set up the eco-luxury ‘1 Hotels’ brand which is rooted in the idea of sustainability. Its flagship property, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, was constructed with over 50% of regional and reclaimed materials and is fully powered by wind energy.

b. The award-winning QO Hotel in Amsterdam is based on a concept of a living building that employs a circular use of resources. This concept spans from its building infrastructure to lighter touches. Water is channelled from sinks and showers to flush toilets, while its carpets are made from 100% recycled fishing nets.

11. To keep ahead of our competition, we are developing new sustainable hotel concepts in Singapore that help to build up an ecosystem of environmental sustainability. 

a. For example, the eco-friendly resort being developed at the Mandai Wildlife Reserve has been accredited with BCA’s Green Mark Platinum award as the first Super Low Energy Resort in Singapore. It will offer guest rooms in treehouses shaped like seedpods, and have elevated walkways to allow native flora and fauna to thrive. The resort’s energy efficiency initiatives will help it achieve energy savings of more than 40 per cent annually.

Sustainability as an engine of growth for hotel businesses

12. There are significant and exciting economic opportunities presented by the green economy for the tourism sector. By embedding sustainability into the core of business operations and product offerings, hotels can gain a competitive advantage to thrive in the new normal. 

a. Products and experiences that align with customers’ aspirations and expectations will see greater demand and build stronger brand loyalty. 

b. Businesses that manage their resources more efficiently will also benefit from recurrent cost savings. 

c. Workers will also be more inspired and productive when they are empowered to contribute to a shared vision.

13. Beyond the economic benefits, sustainability is an existential issue for Singapore. We are a low-lying island state susceptible to the impact of climate change. At the same time, many of the renewable energy options are not available to us. We therefore need to work together to drive Singapore’s green transition in a concerted, decisive manner.

14. Prioritising sustainability will help companies to become more efficient and financially sustainable. But this transition can take time for the results to become apparent, so businesses will need to adopt a longer-term view of the benefits and costs.

15. I understand that many companies have expressed their concerns over higher energy costs and carbon taxes in the future. These may add some costs and stresses in the near term. 

16. However, these are necessary moves to help businesses price in environmental costs in their decision-making. In addition, by sending a strong message to businesses and workers about our climate ambition and the green opportunities here, this will make Singapore a more attractive destination for businesses, capital, and talent.

17. Many hotels in Singapore have already started on their sustainability journey and have made commendable progress thus far. Some examples of such hotels are:

a. Marina Bay Sands, where we are gathered today. MBS is the first carbon-neutral MICE venue in Singapore, and it has invested in technology to reduce its carbon footprint by over 30%.

b. One Farrer Hotel and Grand Hyatt have incorporated farm-to-table dining concepts to provide unique, elevated dining experiences for their guests.

c. Resorts World Sentosa was conferred green certifications under the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Destination and Hotel Industry Criteria.

18. These are just a few examples undertaken by hotel businesses in Singapore. Collectively, these have added to Singapore’s attractiveness as a sustainable urban destination. I look forward to more impactful sustainability-driven innovations and improvements among our hotels.

19. These efforts need not be the most visible, nor do they always require heavy investments in equipment or infrastructure. Even smaller investments into energy-efficient light bulbs, undertaking regular maintenance of chiller systems, or switching to refillable toiletries, can all make a lasting difference to your business and our environment.

Launch of the Hotel Sustainability Roadmap


20. Last February, the Government launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 to spark a national movement on sustainability, to become a greener and more sustainable city. This sustainability movement is picking up speed and inspiring action across many industries. 

21. For instance, under Sentosa Development Corporation’s Sustainable Sentosa strategic roadmap which I launched in September last year, SDC will pilot new sustainable leisure experiences such as green MICE events, eco-centric experiences, and solar-powered accommodation on the Southern Islands. The Sentosa Carbon Neutral Network, launched to achieve Sentosa’s sustainability goals, involves hotel partners like Capella Hotel Singapore, Far East Hospitality and Resorts World Sentosa. Such collective public-private efforts are key to progress in our national sustainability journey. 

22. I am thus pleased to hear that the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA, pronounced: shah) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) are launching the Hotel Sustainability Roadmap today. This roadmap is a culmination of a successful public-private partnership under SHA’s Hotel Sustainability Committee that was started in 2020.

23. The Hotel Sustainability Roadmap charts out a clear industry-wide sustainability vision. It outlines the strategies for the hotel industry to achieve the next bound of transformation in hotels’ sustainability journeys. The roadmap will bring together and align the sustainability efforts taking place across the industry for greater impact. Our goal is for industry players to make sustainability an integral part of your operations and gain a competitive advantage through your sustainability efforts.

24. This includes supporting hotels to develop holistic sustainability plans that are in line with internationally recognised standards. STB will also work with the hotel industry on clear and quantifiable emissions targets, to contribute toward our national target of net zero emissions by or around mid-century.

25. This roadmap is another significant step forward that we have taken forward towards greening our tourism sector. I hope that this plan can guide hotels to chart out and achieve ambitious sustainability goals, and inspire change in other tourism industries as well. 

The Government is committed to supporting hotels in their sustainability journey

26. The Government is committed to continue supporting tourism businesses on this journey and easing their transition toward more sustainable practices.

27. Hotels can tap on the existing suite of government programmes to support your sustainability efforts. For example, the Enterprise Sustainability Programme that was launched last year supports Singapore businesses, especially SMEs, to build capabilities and capture opportunities in the green economy. 

28. STB will support the hotel industry to develop innovative and useful solutions as pilots to address business gaps identified by hotels. 

29. STB will also equip our workforce with the right skills for the future, by partnering educational institutions and manpower agencies to develop a deep talent pool of sustainability-focused skills and capabilities.

30. Finally, STB will build greater awareness and recognition of the tourism sector’s sustainability efforts and sustainable product offerings. Hotels can also tap on STB’s marketing support to strengthen your sustainability-focused messaging. 

31. In the coming months, STB will announce further plans to advance sustainability across the tourism sector.

Closing

32. Today’s inaugural event is a significant first step toward cementing sustainability as a key priority for Singapore’s hotel industry. 

33. I would like to commend SHA on spearheading the hotel industry’s efforts in this area and leading the industry in this shared vision. If we can build on this momentum to effect an industry-wide transformation, this will set the stage for other tourism industries in Singapore to follow in your path.

34. I wish everyone a fruitful day ahead, and I look forward to the exciting ideas, partnerships, and developments that will be born from the Hotel Sustainability Conference and Marketplace.

35. Thank you.

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