Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at the Tax Free World Association Asia Pacific Exhibition and Conference 2024

Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at the Tax Free World Association Asia Pacific Exhibition and Conference 2024

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.


To all our foreign friends, welcome to Singapore.




I’ve heard from Franck and many others that you have had a wonderful time last night, enjoying our Gardens by the Bay and the Tulip Mania that we have just exhibited for all our guests this season.


I want to thank Erik and Sunil for your masterclass in describing the world of duty-free and travel. Sunil, I think you did a really remarkable job talking about the changes in the dynamics in Asia.


Why Singapore


Why am I here today? I think my specific message this morning is to zoom in into “Why Singapore?”


Singapore is pleased to host this (TFWA) for many years; for 25 years you have been here. There were a few years in between where it was disrupted by a variety of reasons, but I am very pleased to announce to all of you that we are able to now expand this, and we will hold this until at least 2026. So, thank you very much for your confidence in Singapore.


In fact, two years ago, I had personally made the pitch to TFWA; it was a strong pitch. It was a pitch during COVID-19, and I wondered why Erik and the team had then effectively chosen Singapore to be a long-term partner. But I wanted to reaffirm our commitment, and I wanted to be able to enhance this partnership.


I’d suggest three points that could have been in TFWA’s mind, as it decided to extend this event to Singapore up until 2026, with an option to extend further.




When you hold your event here in Singapore, it’s going to be relatively stress-free. Let me explain why. First, this is a seminal week in Singapore. On Wednesday, we will be handing over from the third generation of Singapore's political leaders to the fourth generation of Singapore's political leaders. Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong, who has been PM for 20 years, will hand over the prime ministership to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong. That presents a picture of a smooth, successful transition. It is important because that presents stability. And that means that we are able to plan long term.


You are now in beautiful Marina Bay Sands. We have planned long term to expand MBS, which would include more MICE space as well as new offerings.


We are also planning against the vagaries of climate change, investing billions of dollars on coastal protection. We are planning infrastructure investments that will help us in the new energy world. We are planning infrastructure, in terms of our airports and our MRTs.


When I first joined from the private sector to the government sector, I was asked to help to look after the tourism sector. During that time, the MICE industry was buffeted by COVID-19; our airports and seaports were all affected. My team and I from the Singapore Tourism Board the Ministry of Trade and Industry worked tirelessly to ensure how to keep our MICE sector open, to build and to organise MICE events that are safe (in terms of public health considerations), and that is reliable.




The other aspect is having a care-free experience. And that is why we are also complementing business with leisure. Many of you might be aware that in the last couple of months, we had world-class acts descend into Singapore – Taylor Swift, Coldplay, and Bruno Mars to name a few. We are getting exciting, and that mirrored with business events, make for a carefree and stress-free experience for tourists, visitors, and locals alike.




I also wanted to share with you, what we are doing to make it easy for all of you to travel into and from Singapore to this incredible region.


Singapore is strategically located in Asia – it is part of the Strait of Malacca, and one of the busiest trade routes. Well-connected, both in terms of logistics and in terms of tourism. Let me give you some figures. We have > 6,400 flights weekly from Changi Airport, which connects Singapore to 151 cities in 49 countries and territories worldwide. In fact, in February passenger traffic in Changi Airport hit 5.35 million, which means that it crossed pre-pandemic levels.


In January, we also announced the mutual 30-day visa exemption arrangement with China, which we expect to further boost visitor arrivals and spending in Singapore.


I mentioned earlier that Singapore is a place where we plan, and we don't rest on our laurels. So, we are going to be strengthening Changi Airport’s terminals. We will complete Changi’s Terminal 5 by mid-2030s. With Terminal 5 done, Terminal 5 of Changi Airport will handle ~50 million passenger movements per year, increasing the airport’s total annual passenger handling capacity to 135 million.


The expansion of Changi Airport strengthens Singapore’s position as a global hub and anchor hub in Asia, connecting Asia to the world. It will also enhance Singapore’s attractiveness as a leading MICE destination and business hub, which the duty-free and travel retail industry can benefit from.


But it is not just air travel. In terms of sea travel, our cruise industry is also doing quite wonderous things. Singapore is Southeast Asia’s leading home port, and we will welcome Disney’s cruise ship here in 2025. Our travel retail market audience is well diversified and has great potential.




On this note I want to thank all of you for coming. I want to thank TFWA for hosting in Singapore. I hope all of you will continue to enjoy traveling freely to Singapore and that you will truly have a stress-free, tax-free experience. Thank you.

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