Facelift for tourism

Facelift for tourism
Mr Bernard Harrison had shared interesting insights from his 29 years of experience in setting up and managing Singapore's first animal attractions as well as his thoughts on how Singapore can be more creative in other sectors.

Growing the tourism pie will call for novel ideas from all sectors and fresh cross-border initiatives by different agencies.

In that spirit, one should not dismiss bold suggestions like that of former Wildlife Reserves Singapore chief Bernard Harrison on creating “un-zoo” experiences (involving up-close interactions with trained animals in a natural setting), rather than merely resting on the laurels of the Night Safari and River Safari.

Will jewels like the integrated resorts lose their shine and look “uninspired”, as Mr Harrison fears? And will the “look, honey!” appeal of the Gardens by the Bay start to fade, as brought into focus by a recent Singapore Tourism Board promotional video that drew netizens’ ire?

These are good reasons to tap the creativity of a wider range of people in the revitalisation of the tourism industry – a major preoccupation of other countries too. Malaysia recently identified four “mega-trends” to watch – creation of a global elite seeking quality vacations; a faster pace of life that will prompt brief escapades from city life; a wide range of services to cater to the selective spending of tourists as they splurge on some things and economise on others; and catering to globe-trotters from China and India. Industry players ought to make full use of STB’s $15 million fund to help enliven visitor experiences.

Models sashaying on the street, as at Fashion Steps Out@ Orchard Road, should inspire more creative offerings. Perhaps, encounters with nature (here and nearby) conceptualised by the Singapore Heritage Society and the Nature Society.

Dramatised visits to heritage sites, behind-the-scenes getai tours during the Hungry Ghosts Month, laid-back treks in Housing Board estates, or night visits to edgy Geylang lorongs (street food, low life and all). For a “total experience”, one should not just focus on big-budget attractions but aim for a delicious mix.

This article was published on April 13 in The Straits Times.

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