SINGAPORE travel trade stakeholders will have a greater say in shaping the country’s tourism future, as the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) deliberates how to distribute its S$905 million (US$716 million) industry development war chest over the next five years.
The hefty budget forms the second tranche of the Tourism Development Fund, which was established in 2005 with S$2 billion to support targets set for 2015.
Two-thirds of the fund injection, or S$640 million, will be pumped into seeding new tourism ventures and projects, while the rest will be channeled towards supporting tourism-related education and skill-upgrading initiatives.
Key segments earmarked by STB for advancement include cruise tourism, the arts and entertainment sector, and the cultivation of the travel consultant industry as a key enabler for overall tourism development.
Addressing the city-state’s tourism practitioners during this morning’s Tourism Industry Conference, second minister for trade and industry, S Iswaran, said: “STB’s strategy is to help local travel (experts) with established outbound businesses to grow inbound traffic, (and) attract global companies to set up innovative inbound operations here that draw traffic into Singapore and the region.”
“Your partnership in this next phase of development is crucial. So even as we firm up the individual funding schemes, we want to hear from you on how we can make even better use of these monies.”
When asked how STB would attempt to establish closer ties with local inbound operators, considering the latter’s concern over the NTO’s perceived lack of support, the bureau’s chief executive, Aw Kah Peng, insisted that consultative meetings with different segments of the trade were already taking place on a daily basis.
“We have been doing this (partnering the trade) all this while. We have been using this same message (over) the last four years,” she said. “It is just that the industry has gotten bigger, (so) there are more players and we have to reach out more.”
“If they (trade players) want to reach us, just call us. We are contactable. We are accessible. If they don’t call us, we will find them,” she added.
Reactions to STB’s renewed focus on engaging local industry stakeholders were varied, with some industry members dismissing the NTO’s efforts to work hand-in-hand as lip service.
“Although they do communicate with us from time to time, there has been no real inclusion in the broader scheme of things. In our view, they might have elaborate plans, but it might all just be rhetoric,” said Dennis Law, managing director, Star Holiday Mart.
CTC Travel’s vice president of channel distribution, Sylvia Tan, was less scathing about the NTO’s efforts. “Over the past year, we’ve had several meetings with STB. They have been working heavily on the ground, feeding us marketing insights that we’ve assimilated into our business strategy,” she said.
“STB is making a step in the right direction, and now it is up to the industry, and how receptive we are to new ideas to develop innovative products.”
Additional reporting by Linda Haden