Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at the Second Reading of the Singapore Tourism Board (Amendment) Bill

Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at the Second Reading of the Singapore Tourism Board (Amendment) Bill

1. Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Industry, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a Second time.”


2. The Singapore Tourism Board (Amendment) Bill principally amends the Singapore Tourism Board Act to provide the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) with statutory powers for the economic regulation of the cruise industry, as well as to clarify and enhance STB’s administrative capabilities and enforcement powers over the broader tourism industry.


3. Let me elaborate on the two key legislative changes contained in the Bill.


Transfer of economic regulatory role for the cruise industry from MPA to STB


4. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is empowered under the MPA Act to regulate the provision of marine and port services and facilities in Singapore, including the two cruise terminals – Singapore Cruise Centre (SCC) and Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore (MBCCS). For cruise services, MPA oversees maritime safety and security, as well as pricing of port services and facilities. MPA and STB also jointly regulate berth allocations and service standards of the terminal operators. This is sensible as these factors are vital to the implementation of our cruise tourism industry which STB oversees.


5. Under Clause 5 of the Bill, we are now formalizing and clarifying STB’s regulatory role over the cruise terminal operators in the Singapore Tourism Board Act.  Let me explain why this is necessary.


6. Singapore’s cruise tourism industry has grown tremendously since the opening of MBCCS. From 2012 to 2019, overall passenger throughout has grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 10.3% to reach 1.82 million.


7. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for cruise holidays has rebounded strongly worldwide. The Cruise Lines International Association projected that global cruise passenger volume will recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year and increase by approximately 30%, compared to 2019, by 2026. With a low market penetration rate of 0.2%, the cruise industry is especially optimistic about the growth potential in the Asia Pacific. Cruise capacity in the region is projected to more than double from 3.4 million in 2022 to 7.3 million passengers by 2027.


8. As the volume of cruise tourism grows, Singapore’s cruise terminals will become critical infrastructure for our tourism sector. To ensure that these terminals are operated in a manner that is aligned with our broader goals of developing Singapore’s cruise and tourism activities, STB will need regulatory powers to ensure high service standards, optimise the use of the limited number of berths and prevent excessive pricing.


9. The newly added Part 3AA in the Bill provides clarity on the cruise terminal licensing regime. New sections such as Section 32A and 32B, further empower STB to conduct surveys, and obtain information, such as financial and operational data, from the cruise terminal licensees. Such data will help STB monitor the industry’s development and make comprehensive analyses and projections for effective economic regulation.


10. As cruise terminals are international gateways into Singapore with significant market power, Sections 29R and 29S empower STB to have oversight and control over the ownership and acquisition of the cruise terminal licensees. The intent is not to control the day-to-day commercial decisions of the licensees, but where there are material changes to the equity control of the licensee, STB’s approval will be required to safeguard Singapore’s national interests.


11. Section 29V also requires the cruise terminal licensees’ central management and control to be ordinarily exercised within Singapore, so that STB can take enforcement action swiftly if any contraventions ever arise.


12. Section 29ZB provides for a special administration order to be made, where the affairs, business and property of the cruise terminal licensee may be managed directly by STB. These powers are intended to ensure business continuity and avoid disruptions of cruise operations and passenger flows under extraordinary circumstances, such as the insolvency of a terminal operator.


13. In drafting these amendments, close references were made to similar provisions in the MPA Act, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) Act, which exercises similar powers over Singapore’s airports. STB will exercise these powers with a light touch, with the primary goals of growing the cruise industry to benefit our economy and strengthening Singapore’s position as the region’s leading cruise hub. We have also consulted stakeholders in the cruise industry and have incorporated their feedback accordingly.


14. Consequential amendments will be made to the MPA Act to avoid any overlaps in the regulation of cruise terminal operators when STB takes over the roles that I have described. All other marine and port services and facilities will continue to be regulated by MPA. STB and MPA will work closely to ensure the seamless implementation of these amendments.


Clarify and enhance STB’s administration capabilities and enforcement powers


15. The second set of changes clarifies and enhances STB’s administrative capabilities and enforcement powers over the broader tourism industry.


16. First, Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill introduce administrative amendments to update and incorporate flexibility into the Board’s voting processes, tenure and number of members. This is in line with the Board provisions for other Statutory Boards.


17. Second, Clause 6 of the Bill clarifies STB’s purview over tourism enterprises and expressly provides for powers to provide grants and act as guarantor for selected strategic tourism enterprises.


18. Third, Clause 11 of the Bill accords legal recognition to the electronic version of tourist guide badges. This will allow tourist guides to access their badges more conveniently online. Both physical and electronic badges will continue to be recognised, until a transition to a full e-licensing regime takes place at an appropriate time.


19. Fourth, Clause 21 of the Bill expressly provides for the power of the Board to collect and access tourism information reasonably required for the functions and duties of STB, including industry development and promotion. Examples of such information would be visitorship numbers and tourism receipts. To protect the information that has been collected, Clause 21 also includes a “preservation of secrecy” provision to limit the onward disclosure of such information.


20. Fifth, this Bill expands STB’s administrative and enforcement powers, including according appropriate penalties, to regulate tourist guides and the cruise terminal licensees. This is necessary for STB to exercise its regulatory functions effectively.


21. Mr Speaker, Singapore’s tourism sector is poised for strong growth as it emerges from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Bill will enable STB to drive the development and regulation of our tourism sector more effectively and continue its efforts to make Singapore an attractive tourism destination for all.


22. Mr Speaker, I beg to move.

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