SINGAPORE - Singapore's tourism sector must keep coming up with new ideas and offerings if it is to attract travellers as they become increasingly spoilt for choice, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday.
"The task is never done and we continually need to refresh our attractions and events," he said, as he officially opened the River Safari, Asia's first river- themed wildlife park.
"Consumers' tastes will change, facilities and attractions will age... other destinations are stepping up their game - opening new attractions, organising new events."
A government fund of almost $1 billion was announced in 2012 which PM Lee said would support new events and develop new concepts.
Adding that tourism is a "high touch" as well as "high-tech" business, he said: "We will therefore do more to give our workers the skills, knowledge and courtesies to do well in this industry."
The Ministry of Trade and Industry is currently looking at how to do this.
Mr Lee hailed the development of Singapore as a tourist destination, from having 90,000 annual visitors in 1964 to more than 15 million a year now.
New attractions have included the integrated resorts, the Formula 1 race and Gardens by the Bay.
The River Safari is the latest addition to the Mandai nature cluster, which also houses the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.
"I have always enjoyed visiting the wildlife parks," said Mr Lee. "When our kids were small, Ho Ching and I would bring them here and to the Bird Park, and we always had a good time. Now the children are grown up, but Ho Ching and I still visit from time to time."
The River Safari is an example of "how we are making Singapore a better home for our families", Mr Lee said.
"Not just a place to work but to have fun and to unwind too, with things to do and see for all ages, and where diverse cultures meet and enrich our multiracial community."
Since the opening of the Giant Panda Forest enclosure at the River Safari in November 2012, more than 1.1 million people have visited, said Ms Claire Chiang, chairman of Wildlife Reserves Singapore. The River Safari was given a soft opening last April.
The park is home to 6,000 animal specimens, including endangered species like the giant river otter and Mekong giant catfish.
But the stars are still Kai Kai and Jia Jia - the two giant pandas on loan from China.
Mr Lee said they were a hit with the crowds, and added: "They have been asked to do some work and have some babies soon."
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.