SINGAPORE - Wellness will be a key part of Singapore's tourism offerings in the next five to 10 years, and events like the inaugural Wellness Festival will help kick-start this movement, said Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Keith Tan on Friday (June 3).
But to build Singapore's reputation in that field, domestic demand will also have to be built up and factored in, he added.
Mr Tan was speaking on a panel about shaping Singapore as an urban wellness haven at the Wellness Symposium, held at Gardens by the Bay.
The symposium, organised by Enterprise Singapore, brought together business leaders, industry experts and professionals to share insights on the market opportunities and consumer demand in spiritual, mental and preventive health.
"Singapore is not known as a wellness destination and, frankly, if you ask a lot of locals, they don't associate Singapore with (that). But when you survey the landscape and see what's out there (with) companies that provide wellness solutions, there's a lot available that's underappreciated and not well known," he said.
Mr Tan cited Singapore's reputation as a foodie destination, where visitors can get a plethora of options, whether it costs $5, $50 or $500.
"I see that for the wellness sector too, where we are on this journey... It's not quite at the same stature where food is, but we can get there," he said.
He added that this will require the joint efforts of the industry and government agencies, so that in five to 10 years' time, Singapore will be known not just for its food and attractions, but also for its wellness offerings.
"(But) Singapore cannot establish a reputation as an urban wellness destination if we don't have a baseline of domestic advocates and domestic demand... (Hence) it's crucial that we build something that appeals to locals because, without it, it would be an inauthentic experience for foreigners," he said.
The other panellists were Mr Aaron Boey, traditional Chinese medicine giant Eu Yan Sang's chief executive; Ms Fiona Tan, wellness brand Como Shambhala Group's general manager; and Ms Summer Song, founder of cultural experience creators Cultured Generation. The session was moderated by McKinsey & Company senior partner Diaan-Yi Lin.
The 10-day Wellness Festival - which runs from Friday to June 12 and has more than 130 free and ticketed activities islandwide - is among the first steps in making Singapore's wellness offerings more easily discoverable by locals and visitors.
Organised by STB, the festival features everything from forest bathing at Jewel Changi Airport to equine therapy with horses at the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre, to yoga on the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark Observation Deck.
There are also several large-scale attractions such as The Wellness Sensorium, a multi-sensory pop-up experience at The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay, which will have six zones with activities like stone stacking, and a light-and-sound bath to induce a state of calm.
"The festival is just an event by itself, but it's a rallying call to the industry to step up and help support our efforts, so that Singapore can become better known as a wellness destination," said STB's Mr Tan.
That rallying call was echoed by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan, who delivered the opening address at the symposium.
He noted the potential of the wellness industry, citing figures by the non-profit Global Wellness Institute, which said in 2020 that the global wellness economy was valued at US$4.4 trillion (S$6 trillion), US$1.5 trillion in the Asia-Pacific region, and US$12 billion in Singapore.
He called on industry players to capitalise on this.
"Wellness is an emerging sector which presents many opportunities for our tourism sector and Singapore is very well positioned to capture these opportunities... because we have a wide variety of accessible, innovative and 'must-do' wellness experiences," said Mr Alvin Tan, who is also Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth.
The festival is also part of Singapore's post- Covid-19-pandemic recovery plans.
In April, STB announced that close to $500 million has been set aside to support the Singapore tourism sector's recovery plans in the coming years.
One key move is to develop Singapore as a sustainable urban destination to draw eco-conscious travellers, a growing tourism segment. To differentiate Singapore from other destinations, attractions and events will be curated and created with a sustainability and wellness focus.
STB's Mr Tan said Singapore will never be nor aspire to be another Bali or Phuket or Koh Samui. And unlike destinations where visitors have to travel a few hours to the mountains or an isolated spa in the wilderness, wellness experiences here are easily available in the heart of the city.
"I would love it if Singapore can be seen as a destination where travellers come for business or leisure, and they go back refreshed, and that Singapore as a destination has taken care of them holistically," he said.
The Republic is also showing signs of strong, renewed demand in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) sector, having already hosted more than 150 events in the first three months of this year.
More than 37,000 delegates attended the events, said STB, which added that the industry is expected to fully recover in two to three years.
At least 66 international events are slated for the rest of this year, including the return of the Milken Institute Asia Summit 2022 in September; and Gamescom Asia, the Asia satellite event of the world's largest computer and video games festival, in October.