New $15-million fund to develop tourism associations: Singapore Tourism Board

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.

Building the Next 50 Years Together

This means that we must focus on concepts, and creating distinctive software, that can maximise the value we derive from existing tourism hardware, and differentiate Singapore from regional competition. We also need to help Singaporeans acquire new capabilities and raise productivity, so that they can take on higher value jobs that support the tourism industry's growth.

We cannot do this alone. The rising external competition, the need for innovative ideas and solutions, and the growing capability of industry players, all mean that our tourism industry is at a stage where inter-dependence is a key feature, and collaboration among the various stakeholders is of paramount importance. Hence, over the years, STB has sought to work with more partners like you to jointly develop new ideas, as well as solutions that address capability gaps.

For example, in 2007, we embarked on a multi-year public-private partnership with Singapore GP Pte Ltd (SGP) to host the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix. By working with and across multiple Government agencies and various industry partners, STB and SGP have been able to mitigate the operational risks of this large-scale undertaking, and harness the private sector's creativity to deliver an event that is widely acknowledged as one of the best on the international F1 calendar. That process has also earned our industry well-deserved recognition for its ability to conceptualise and deliver world class events.

In the arts and lifestyle arena, STB, NParks and Art Heritage Singapore are working to transform the Fort Canning Centre into the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris, a purpose-built modern art museum showcasing prized and distinctive private collections. Projects like the Singapore Pinacothèque will push the boundaries in our lifestyle offerings, and will be complemented by smaller scale, ground-up innovations that STB is supporting through the $5 million Kickstart Fund.

In February, STB convened the Hotel Industry Expert Panel, a group of seven local and international industry practitioners, to advise Government and the rest of industry on strategies to raise productivity and create good jobs for Singaporeans in the hotels sector. STB, IDA and some 60 hotels are also jointly involved in a Call-for-Collaboration to explore the use of self check-in technology by hotel guests. Such technology will help hotels tailor their services and stagger staffing, to provide the best check-in experience for their valued guests every time.

We will continue pursuing more of such partnerships to help us achieve the quality growth that will benefit Singaporeans and our businesses. STB stands ready to jointly develop ideas, share risk, and collaborate on strategies and projects. You each bring unique perspectives and strengths that can add value to our overall industry and capability development efforts, and we seek your active involvement in this important effort.

Strong Associations are Crucial Nodes Between Government and Industry

Industry and precinct associations are crucial partners in this endeavour. Today, STB works with and through several associations to engage businesses on the ground. STB also supports the Orchard Road Business Association, Chinatown Business Association, and the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, to run annual festivities in their precincts. More recently, STB and WDA supported the Society of Tourist Guides Singapore in their tie-up with the World Federation of Tourist Guides Association to enhance tourist guide training opportunities here.

With more support, industry and precinct associations can rally their members to capture higher value business opportunities, drive capability development initiatives, and create authentic visitor experiences in their precincts. That is why STB is setting aside $15 million under a new Association Development Fund to build capabilities in tourism-facing industry and precinct associations. Our vision is for them to become key nodes, in the network of collaboration across the tourism industry, that can catalyse quality growth in their respective spheres of influence. STB and our Government agencies will be your partners as you embark on various efforts to transform the sector.

Lionel and my STB colleagues will share more details about the Association Development Fund, as well as other capability development schemes that STB has in place to help our industry partners transform for quality growth. I urge all of you to participate actively during the breakout and networking sessions that STB will be conducting later, to learn more about these schemes, and also from each other's successes and challenges.

Conclusion

Even as we look back on the our tourism industry's progress and accomplishments over the past 5 decades, let us also keep a keen eye on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead of us - to co-create compelling software, to refresh visitor experiences, and to jointly strengthen industry capabilities.

We must persevere together as partners to rise above regional competition and domestic constraints, to attain our goal of sustained and quality growth in our tourism industry with exciting opportunities for our people and our businesses. On that note, let me wish everyone a fruitful time of learning and sharing at this year's Tourism Industry Conference, and a successful year ahead. Thank you.

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