Tourist arrivals have fallen from 15.6 million in 2013 to 15.1 million last year - the first drop since 2009 ("Trying times for smaller, older tourist attractions"; Monday, ST).
This has been attributed to a stronger Singapore dollar and competition from other destinations.
Here are a few suggestions which the Government could look into, in order to arrest the drop in tourist arrivals.
First, the land arrival experience has to be improved. The existing land checkpoints in Tuas and Woodlands could be more tourist-friendly. While the design of the checkpoints is security-centric, we must also make it traveller-friendly.
Compared with Changi Airport, the land arrival experience is much less pleasant, due to lack of signage, a need to walk a significant distance from the alighting point to the arrival hall, and a lack of trolleys.
The infrastructure constraints somehow make travellers take a convoluted route to clear the checkpoints.
Additionally, there is no tourist booth to attend to travellers' queries at the land checkpoints.
Second, the Government should consider improving the terminals for coaches up north.
Sad to say, there is no existing centralised transport hub for coaches to Malaysia, with pick-up and alighting points ranging from the roadside to hotel lobbies.
While the Government is investing a lot to improve our local transport hubs and the airport, the pick-up and alighting points for buses to Malaysia are still stuck in time.
Inevitably, this could affect our country's reputation and dampen arrivals.
Finally, when it comes to accommodation, Singapore is indeed expensive, with limited budget options.
A suggestion is to allow Singaporean families to host tourists for homestay programmes.
In order to prevent residential homes from hosting too many short-term visitors, the authorities could step in to match visitors with Singaporean hosts and impose a cap on the number of tourists hosted within a stipulated timeframe.
Lee Yong Se
This article was first published on April 22, 2015.
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