The fund, unveiled at the annual Tourism Industry Conference, will help such groups do more such as organising festive events, and training and hiring staff, said the STB. This would in turn "create authentic visitor experiences" in the areas, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Mr S. Iswaran, who was guest of honour at the event held at the Suntec Convention Centre.
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Here is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Mr S. Iswaran's speech:
I am pleased to join you at this year's Tourism Industry Conference. This annual Conference is an opportunity for all stakeholders in the tourism sector to take stock of how far we have come as an industry, the challenges that lie ahead, and how we can collectively chart a path to attain our shared goals.
50 Years of Growth and Innovation
2014 marks 50 years of growth and innovation in our tourism sector. Over the past five decades, Singapore has been transformed, through our collective effort, into a premier lifestyle destination and vibrant global city. Orchard Road is now a premier shopping belt boasting nearly 800,000 square metres of retail, dining and entertainment offerings. Our eco-system of nature attractions has evolved from the Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoological Gardens and Botanic Gardens to include the world-renown Night Safari, and more recently the River Safari and iconic Gardens by the Bay. The Integrated Resorts have added vibrancy and buzz through new attractions and innovative programming.
In the events space, STB has worked with you to grow our MICE offerings. Over the years, we have moved beyond merely importing events into Singapore, to co-creating new products with industry, and anchoring a varied portfolio of business and thought leadership events here. Our leisure event offerings have also evolved and diversified over the years to include world class sporting, entertainment and lifestyle elements like the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix and soon, the Women's Tennis Association Championships.
Today, more than 15 million visitors call on our shores, a far cry from the 90,000 when we first started in 1964. Tourism receipts have also risen to $23.5 billion last year, two and a half times the $9 billion in 1998, the first year STB started tracking tourism receipts.
Singaporeans and our businesses have benefited in tandem with such growth. Tourism businesses have capitalised on opportunities from our evolving landscape and, in turn, they have helped to create a diverse range of good jobs for Singaporeans. Full-fledged careers in the culinary, hospitality, events and entertainment fields, for example, are now real options for a younger generation of Singaporeans with diverse interests and skills. The variety of leisure offerings we have introduced also makes Singapore an exciting place in which to live, work and play.
More Opportunities Ahead, but also More Competition
Our location in the heart of a rising Asia, and at the crossroads of global flows of talent and capital, puts us in a good position for continued growth. Over the next two decades, the UN World Tourism Organisation expects visitor arrivals to Asia to grow an average of 5 per cent per year to 535 million, outstripping the 3 per cent global average. Such growth will be fuelled by continued global interest in travel to Asia, and the rise of the affluent Asian middle class and its appetite for tourism products.
However, we can also expect regional competition to intensify in tandem with this growth. China, Japan and Korea have a slew of attractions developments lined up over the next few years that will give us a run for our money. Our ASEAN neighbours are also raising their game in both the leisure and business sectors.
Our domestic constraints accentuate this challenge. A tighter labour market imposes a greater constraint on our ability to sustain the recent high growth rates in visitor arrivals. We need a more durable growth model for the tourism industry, one that makes more efficient use of our finite resources while emphasising quality, visitor experience, and increased spending from each tourist, rather than just growing visitor arrivals alone. This model envisages strong economic contribution from a competitive and productive tourism industry.