Instead of waiting for world borders to reopen, Singapore needs to disrupt the status quo. For the tourism industry here, the next big moves lie in sustainable travel solutions, technological innovation and holistic wellness.
This was highlighted by speakers at the opening of the Tourism Industry Conference yesterday.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the tourism sector here faced disruption even before the Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, apps were replacing tour guides, maps and travel agents, and virtual or augmented reality allowed people to enjoy immersive experiences without leaving home.
The challenge is how Singapore will prepare for the long-term future, Mr Chan said.
Sustainable tourism presents growth opportunities, especially as tourists become more conscious about the environment.
The Government will pump $68.5 million into the Tourism Development Fund, which businesses can tap if they want to explore new areas, including sustainability.
"In terms of the abundance of land and natural landscapes, Singapore might not be able to compete directly with other eco-destinations," Mr Chan acknowledged.
But the Republic's progressive and transparent regulatory environment and strong intellectual property protection will make it an attractive place for companies looking to test-bed sustainable tourism products and experiences.
Another strength is the vibrant public and private ecosystem that facilitates effective partnerships for businesses and workers to grow their capabilities, Mr Chan said.
Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Keith Tan said Singapore could find another niche in being a leading urban wellness haven, where wellness and beauty offerings and experiences are easily available in a busy modern city.
"Covid-19 has made wellness a top priority for all of us," he said, adding that a growing middle class will pay a premium for offerings that enhance their sense of well-being.
Some industry players are already moving in that direction. Grand Hyatt Singapore, for example, collaborated with local activewear brand Kydra to launch a Recharge Retreat staycation package that offers a one-night stay with benefits such as a set of activewear, body treatment at a spa, and a meditation session.
Amount the Government will pump into the Tourism Development Fund, which businesses can tap if they want to explore new areas, including sustainability.
Mr Chan said the tourism sector should also leverage technology to create a unique experience for tourists and residents.
He said: "In a world where visitors are not constrained by physical boundaries, travel is no longer just about meeting or sightseeing, but the unique suite of experiences that it offers to visitors from pre-arrival to post-departure."
One example is how tour operators have developed innovative experiences such as the Niu Che Shui Murders launched by Tribe Tours. On this gamified hybrid tour, participants solve a series of puzzles around Chinatown.
To support industry players in their digital transformation, STB launched its innovation platform, Tourism Technology Transformation Cube, yesterday. This provides resources to pick up digital skills such as data analytics, and provides consultancy services for tourism companies that wish to refine their digital strategies. Participants can also get guidance from industry mentors through events and talks.
Mr Chan said the challenge for Singapore is to prepare for long-term success and reinvent global travel.
"We are not waiting for a full reopening. Singapore is prepared to disrupt the status quo, transform our products and services, and harness our capabilities to capture the next type of growth ahead."