Newsmaker Advancing towards smart tourism By Pamela Chow / Posted on 16 November, 2020 14:40 Augmented reality (AR) content may be the way forward for travel recovery in Singapore, as the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) sets its iron sights on AR tourism solutions. Acting chief technology officer, Poh Chi Chuan, fills Pamela Chow in How does STB envisage the industry taking up more AR technology? What innovative ideas have you seen working well for Singapore? We are already beginning to see the adoption of AR technology within the tourism sector. For example, the National Heritage Board (NHB) is partnering with SmartGuide to design digital trail guides using audio, geolocation and AR for three NHB heritage trails at Orchard Road, Little India and Balestier. This project aims to encourage locals to discover our national heritage with entertaining multimedia content. The mobile app will also collect and evaluate data from the trail routes to provide a better understanding of visitor behaviour. To showcase the potential uses of the AR content, STB’s in-house development team is developing a variety of prototypes to help visualise the possibilities of using AR, such as enhancing customer engagement at places of interest, augmenting tour experiences, gamifying exploration, and creating focal points for repeat visitorship and social media engagement. What are some of the potential barriers to adoption of AR solutions among local players, and how is STB working to address such barriers? One of the key hurdles that businesses face in creating this type of digital content is that it can be costly to develop and maintain. Our aim is to create 1,000 pieces of high-quality AR content, such as Singapore icons, cultural and heritage items, and make them available to industry partners over the next few years. The 3D models – with or without animation – will be developed and uploaded to the Tourism Information and Services Hub (TIH) for tourism stakeholders to access for free. These assets can be used to create AR experiences within their digital channels such as apps and websites for customers, (and will be) released for use starting from next year. We look forward to industry partners also contributing to this pool of AR content. Will there be any standardisation or regulation surrounding the production and use of AR assets? For content creators who would like to leverage on TIH, our AR team will establish a set of standards for both technical format and quality. The intent of these standards is to enhance the reusability of AR content across the industry, and reduce friction in integrating different types of AR content. For example, stakeholders will be able to download 3D models from TIH (with) assurance that the models conform to a set of standards, thus, reducing the time and cost of development. With the necessity of contactless transactions and virtual engagement now, how can tourism businesses navigate the sentiment that technology cannot replace the human touch? We are not against the adage. The key point of leveraging technology is to let it take over mundane and repetitive tasks, so that our precious manpower can be devoted to delivering impactful customer service. Given the pandemic, we do not foresee mass leisure travel to resume soon. This is a good opportunity for our tourism and lifestyle businesses to explore new ways to allow consumers to experience Singapore from afar, stay top-of-mind, and build demand as the market recovers. AR technology allows our tourism stakeholders to add an extra dimension of interactivity. Do you envisage some types of hybrid tourism products arising from this? When recovery happens, AR can be used to bridge the online-to-offline divide as part of STB’s vision to create the end-to-end “One Singapore Experience” and deliver a seamless and memorable experience. Tourism businesses with strong AR capabilities will then be able to deeply engage customers from pre-arrival to post-arrival, delivering richer, more memorable experiences at our places of interest. Earlier this year, STB launched a pilot of the Tourism Transformation Index (TXI) that allows businesses to self-assess their state of transformation. How has the TXI aided the recovery of participating stakeholders thus far? Several tourism businesses, such as Amara Hotels & Resorts and Park Hotel Group, have undergone the TXI assessment as part of our Lighthouse Account programme. Their TXI score will help us co-develop a digital transformation strategy to identify new opportunity areas and improve their business outcomes as they plan for recovery. The digital transformation strategy will be accompanied by a roadmap that guides the stakeholders on their next steps. These key industry stakeholders will be examples for the rest of the industry to showcase the importance of transforming their businesses, especially considering the current challenges. We will be releasing the full-scale version of the TXI on our Singapore Tourism Analytics Network by the end of the year. With international travel largely off the cards for now, how can local tourism players better tap into domestic demand? It is in my view that our Singapore residents are very discerning, and our attraction operators will have to innovate either through technology or bundling with other experiences to surprise our domestic crowd. We hope that the SingapoRediscover Vouchers will give our industry an opportunity to do so, and maybe through this, develop new experiences and content that will place them in a better position when travel resumes.