SINGAPORE - Close to half a billion dollars has been set aside to kick-start Singapore's tourism sector and bring travellers back as the Covid-19 pandemic comes under control and borders reopen.
A wellness festival and an action sports facility in Orchard Road where visitors can skate, surf, ski and snowboard are among new initiatives that will be launched, for a start.
"The Government has earmarked close to half a billion dollars to support the tourism recovery in the coming years," said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan at the opening of the Tourism Industry Conference organised by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on Wednesday (April 6), held at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.
He said Singapore recognises it will take a few years for international travel to fully resume, but that in the immediate term, the country needs to recapture pent-up travel demand to speed up the recovery of the tourism sector.
The moves follow the opening of Singapore's borders to fully vaccinated travellers without quarantine.
The country will have to differentiate itself from other destinations, and this will involve curating and creating attractions and events with a sustainability and wellness focus, as well as defending the Republic's position as a "Global-Asia" node for business tourism, said Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Keith Tan, who also spoke at the event on Wednesday.
On the urban wellness front, this year will see the launch of the inaugural, nationwide Wellness Festival Singapore in June, with offerings such as a multi-sensory pop-up at Gardens by the Bay with wellness masterclasses, as well as the inaugural Livewell Festival at Sentosa.
"We must position Singapore's status as an urban wellness haven, as a busy city yet with easy access to wellness offerings for everyone," said STB's Mr Tan, who called on tourism players to raise the wellness content in their products, activities and tours.
A 2021 report by non-profit organisation the Global Wellness Institute estimated that wellness tourism would be a US$1.1 trillion (S$1.5 trillion) market by 2025.
In priming Singapore for recovery, areas of focus will include developing the Republic as a sustainable urban destination to draw a growing segment of conscious travellers.
On the sustainability front, this year Singapore will participate in the Global Destination Sustainability Index for the first time, to benchmark its sustainability performance against other Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) destinations.
The push for sustainability will also be supported by the launch of the Tourism Sustainability Programme, which will provide tourism businesses with resources to identify strategic areas to embark on or expand their sustainability efforts.
This will include grants to improve companies' competitiveness; supporting the development and test-bedding of sustainable solutions via the Singapore Tourism Accelerator; and continuing to educate and share best practices, such as via the Singapore Hotel Sustainability Roadmap.
The road map, jointly launched by STB and the Singapore Hotel Association last month, sets out sustainability targets for the hotel industry and strategies to help hotels achieve these targets.
STB will also doubling down on its SingapoReimagine campaign - an international recovery campaign that has already picked up traction in destinations like Australia, India and Indonesia.
"To support these efforts at driving consideration and conversion, STB will launch a new incentive programme that will offer visitors a complimentary experience when they visit Singapore," said STB's Mr Tan.
Describing these as "hidden gem" experiences that will allow visitors to experience Singapore in an unexpected way, he called on tourism partners to develop more unique and unusual experiences, especially for repeat visitors who think they know the country.
The programme, which has not yet been named, will be launched later this year.
Among efforts to refresh existing destinations is a new concept called the Trifecta - an integrated facility where visitors can skate, surf, ski and snowboard - that will be located at the vacant site next to Somerset Skate Park.
The push forward for the tourism sector also comes off the back of the easing of border measures, allowing quarantine-free travel for visitors from around the world, as well as the rapid relaxation of safe management measures (SMMs) across several sectors - including food and beverage and nightlife - in the past two weeks.
Broadly, this also includes the increasing of permissible group sizes to 10 people for mask-off activities and optional mask-wearing outdoors.
Zoning requirements for events have also been removed, and capacity limits for large settings or events with more than 1,000 people have gone up to 75 per cent.
Said Mr Alvin Tan: "Easing our community SMMs is crucial in laying the foundation for us to live with Covid-19 and resume normal activities in the long run. More importantly, it sends a strong message to international travellers and partners that Singapore is committed to reopening safely.
"At the same time, we will continue to take a balanced and sensible approach with the relaxation of measures, so that we can ensure that these events remain safe and seamless for locals and international travellers."
He noted that in a brand health survey by STB in January, Singapore remained the most considered destination for leisure and BTMice (business travel and meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions) travellers who are open to travel in the next six months, ahead of competing destinations such as Tokyo and Dubai.
In the next few weeks, Singapore will play host to several large-scale events - namely Singapore International Water Week, CleanEnviro Summit Singapore and Asia Tech x Singapore. Around 25,000 attendees from around the world are expected.
"We want Singapore to be a home to best-in-class Mice events, especially those that can bring Asian, European and American businesses together," said Mr Keith Tan, who also urged industry players to grow business events that are relevant to future needs such as food security, energy security and fintech.
"In this way, our Mice sector can support the growth of Singapore-based companies in these areas, giving them a competitive advantage, and strengthen Singapore's relevance at a time when globalisation is under severe pressure," he added.