Tourism industry urged to break down silos

Players must work with other sectors amid challenges, tourism forum participants told

It is time to break down the silos in the tourism industry.

In the face of rising business costs, labour scarcity, digital disruption and increasing competition for tourist dollars, individual sectors can no longer afford to go it alone.

That was the message at the inaugural SG Tourism Leaders Forum yesterday, which brought together industry members as well as eight leaders of associations that represent areas such as hospitality, retail, and food and beverage.

Mr Wong Soon-Hwa, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Singapore Chapter, which organised the forum, said that associations exist to serve their members and as a result, “sometimes we tend to work in silos”.

“The tourism industry is a huge ecosystem and it requires the alignment of all players to make it vibrant and sustainable,” he said in a speech at the NTUC Centre.

For some leaders, the forum, which featured panels with association representatives and industry leaders, was their first get-together.

“This means that we have not done enough in the past to come together”, said Mr Wong.

Topics discussed included industry challenges and opportunities for different sectors to leverage each other for growth.


The tourism industry is a huge ecosystem and it requires the alignment of all players to make it vibrant and sustainable.

MR WONG SOON-HWA, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association's Singapore Chapter.

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, assistant director-general of the National Trades Union Congress and supervising lead of its Hospitality and Consumer Business Cluster, said “the hard reality is that costs will keep going up”, and cost wastage is one area that must be looked at.

“In Singapore, we have too many heads, too many organisations and too many schemes from the Government,” he said, adding that the organisation of resources is key.

This year’s Great Singapore Sale, which will be revamped and shortened, was cited as one example of industry collaboration.

The Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), which organises the sale, has partnered with the Restaurant Association of Singapore and One Kampong Gelam, among others, to cross-promote the event and include more experiences when it kicks off in June.

SRA executive director Rose Tong acknowledged criticism that the sale had lost its lustre.

But instead of letting the 25-year-old event die, the SRA decided to refresh it with some support, she said.

The Orchard Road Business Association’s executive director, Mr Steven Goh, said the transformation of Singapore’s premier shopping belt into a lifestyle destination will also require close collaboration.


“The big challenge with Orchard Road is that it’s dated and old, and connectivity remains a huge issue,” he said, adding that more attractions and museums would enliven the precinct.

With the foreign worker quota for the service sector set to be reduced, the need for a pipeline of local labour in the tourism industry was highlighted as a key concern.

But Mr Kevin Cheong, managing partner of tourism and destination consulting practice Syntegrate, had strong words for educators.

Having been involved in the curricula ofat some polytechnics and universities, he said: “You’re teaching a lot of the kids what should have been taught 15 to 20 years ago, when it’s no longer relevant in the industry.”

National Association of Travel Agents Singapore president Steven Ler said turning talk of collaboration into action requires the alignment of motivation between different parties and a catalyst.

“Associations should play the role to create that catalyst, to bring things together, identify common motivations and get that going,” he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'Tourism industry urged to break down silos'. Print Edition | Subscribe