Investing big to draw travellers

After spending $20 million in two years, the airport, national carrier and tourism board said this week that they will pump another $33.75 million into making Singapore more appealing to travellers.

The money will be used to attract travellers from key markets, and support local programmes such as free city tours for transit passengers.

It is by no means an enormous investment for Changi Airport Group (CAG), Singapore Airlines (SIA) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) but the renewed partnership sends a strong signal - that Singapore is in the game to win.

The stakes are high: The aviation industry accounts for 6 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product and hires about 55,000 people.

To score, Singapore is investing heavily in more than just joint marketing activities.

Tens of billions have been earmarked for new infrastructure, including Terminal 5 which could eventually double Changi's passenger handling capacity, and technologies that will transform the way the industry operates. Singapore carriers are investing in new planes and products to entice travellers.

Rivals are not standing still. Bangkok - geographically better placed than Singapore as a halfway point between Asia and much of the rest of the world - is growing air links not just within the region but to the Middle East and Africa too.

Hong Kong plans to turn a 25ha waterfront plot beside the airport into a lifestyle, family and entertainment centre. The first phase of Skycity is slated for completion between 2022 and 2025. It will give Jewel Changi Airport, a mainly commercial development which opens in 2019, a run for its money.

The opening of two new road links, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link, in the next few years will also provide more convenient access to the Hong Kong airport.

For Singapore to compete effectively, all stakeholders, including Changi Airport, SIA and STB, must join hands.

Karamjit Kaur

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2017, with the headline 'Investing big to draw travellers'. Print Edition | Subscribe