The Singapore Tourism board (STB) is the lead development agency for tourism, one of Singapore’s key economic sectors. Together with industry partners and the community, it is working to shape a dynamic Singapore tourism landscape. In this interview, Melissa ow talks about the tourism sector’s digitalization journey, as well as the attractions of ASEAN that can be reached via Singapore.
How would you appraise ASEAN’s tourism potential?
As a region, ASEAN holds tremendous potential for tourism development. Apart from it being historically rich, the cultural aspects and the heritage aspects of the region are probably second to none in terms of diversity. It’s staggering to see the sheer number UNESCO World Heritage sites in our immediate neighborhood. We have one UNESCO World Heritage site in the Singapore Botanical Gardens and within the region, there are the likes of Borobudur in Indonesia and Angkor in Cambodia. Complementing the UNESCO World Heritage sites, it’s the whole complement of natural attractions from the pristine beaches in Thailand, to culturally-rich towns and settlements in in Da Nang in Vietnam for example. That makes up a very complex yet exciting composition of experiences that form Southeast Asia.
Last year alone, the region attracted about 125 million international visitors – a figure that has actually grown some 7% in the last decade – and generated over $93 billion in tourism revenue. If you look at what that means in terms of tourism and how that translates into tourism outcomes, you can see that it is one of the fastest-growing tourism regions in the world. Over the next ten years, what you would see is that this pace is likely to continue given all the interest that the region attracts. It is estimated in a World Travel and Tourism Council report that tourism in Southeast Asia will grow significantly to more than two hundred million visitors who generate about $250 billion by 2028. That is a phenomenal growth for a collection of ten nation states.
Considering its small size, Singapore has achieved remarkable success. It is also facilitating tourism as it is an aviation hub for the rest of the region. Where do you see Singapore fitting within the ASEAN ecosystem in terms of tourism?
As much as we’re a collection and a coalition of nation states in ASEAN, each member state represents a unique destination. Of course, for Singapore, we are special in the sense that we are a city state nation. That in itself is something unusual. But of course, what we have to offer – apart from our status as a hub within the region – is that we are the ASEAN chair this year, and thus also play a role in deepening tourism cooperation among ASEAN member states and facilitating the development of the tourism trade within ASEAN, so as to enhance the growth of travel and tourism itself.
How important is the US tourism market for Singapore?
The US is currently the ninth-highest tourism source market for Singapore, with a phenomenal year in 2017.We received a record 565,000 visitors from the USA who contributed S$569 million in tourism receipts – a figure that experienced a 22% year-on-year growth, which was astounding.
What accounted for that growth is partly down to the US economy doing well, which has given optimism to companies who were thinking about growing their businesses, looking towards Asia.
The outlook continues to be bright, as ties between the Singapore and the US remain strong.
In Singapore, disruption is present for all the sectors whether it is real estate, ICT or tourism. What does digitalization mean for the tourism sector?
There is a clarion call of government for Singapore to be a smart nation, and the travel and tourism industry must respond similarly.
That is where TIH and STAN come into play.TIH stands for the Tourism Information and shift up Services Hub. It is a platform which enables our industry stakeholders and partners to share information about their products and services offerings for fellow travel-related services around the world to use when they develop and customize Singapore travel and tourism products in their respective markets. At the same time, it also provides a gateway for these companies to come together, understand each other’s products and services and potentially strike up partnerships that would benefit potential visitors.
Meanwhile, STAN – which stands for the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network – is quite different. It is a platform that aggregates data from the various sources that we tap as a national tourism organization. These data would offer us more well-rounded insights into our target audience, and more importantly who is our customer and more importantly, how they spend their time or what delights them. What is the visitor journey when they’re in Singapore? What do they spend on? The real-time data gives us a sense of their preferences and their behavior when they are in Singapore, allowing businesses to make decisions around how we can better reach out to new visitors, and continue engaging repeat tourists with the various quantum of resources that we have.