Singapore readies for quality tourism reinvention

  • Singapore Tourism Board refines marketing messages to appeal to more targeted audiences
  • Manpower limitations and sustainability constraints are challenging considerations
  • Singapore to leverage on its progressive and innovative identity recognised by the world
Singapore will be revitalised as a destination offering quality tourism

‌Singapore Tourism Board (STB) unveiled in April its plans to sustain and future-proof the industry, with chief executive Keith Tan stating that the blueprint zeroes in on “quality tourism”, “driving higher yield” and “creating good jobs”.

‌While details are still to come, these strategic and significant innovations will give Singapore a shot-in-the-arm in finding the new equilibrium for quality tourism amid a post-lockdown supply and demand environment.

‌STB’s Tan acknowledged that “Singapore cannot be a low-cost destination”, and manpower limitations and having to deal with sustainability constraints were “hard truths”.

‌The post-lockdown supply chain may still be playing catch-up, but pundits believe the city-state can and will reinvent itself.

‌For Arthur Kiong, CEO, Far East Hospitality Management, the reality is that hotels need to be able to pay better wages not only to retain but to attract staff.

‌Nobody is oblivious to how severely the industry is being challenged and that “it is a real struggle”, he noted.

‌But Kiong is confident there will be transformational paths to cope with delivering an experience with less manpower and charging more.

‌“Quality tourism is not only a vision, but a functionality and derivative of business reality today. Singapore has to go after certain segments, (and offer compelling reasons and propositions that are sustainable),” he explained.

‌According to Kiong, Singapore’s “secret weapon” is the ability of trade associations, government and the private sector to cooperate and pull stakeholders together, citing how Singapore managed the Covid-19 pandemic.

‌The success of the STB blueprint rests on the ability of execution and “nowhere in the region or in the world” can do it like Singapore, he proffered.

Setting standards in Singapore
An industry practitioner questioning how Singapore’s vision of quality tourism should be defined, asked: “Are we talking about product innovation and differentiation in the type of hotels, retail concepts and the culture being played up?”

‌There are certain expectations of what a multifaceted global destination is, where the visitor comes for the experience and is willing to pay, he said, and while regional competition is “so competitive”, Singapore stands out because it has “some element of a cultural identity that is significantly progressive and innovative”.

Kiong: quality tourism is not only a vision, but a functionality and derivative of business reality today

‌He explained: “Singapore is a hub with a transformative environment and that sets it apart. It is where start-ups can benchmark against Hong Kong or Shanghai if they want to go into China, or are interested in Delhi or Mumbai.

‌“Singapore needs to make a lot of noise about being able to provide the opportunity to meet different people and form new networks to create a global community.

‌“If Singapore is to be laser-focused on quality tourism, it has to set the tone and what quality tourism is, where the new basic is a S$250 to S$300 room rate, and to ring-fence business events with bleisure (or blended travel).

‌“Singapore cannot find the solution overnight, and the strategy is how to make it practical, market-led and authentic.”

‌Meanwhile, Neeta Lachmandas, executive director, Institute of Service Excellence, Singapore Management University and former STB assistant chief executive, business development group, said the term “quality tourism” was coined around 2010, with the opening of the integrated resorts.

‌Agreeing “it is very important that quality tourism is reinforced”, she stressed the right perspective of what quality tourism is and how to create a customer experience that the visitor “feels is value” must be made clear to the industry.

‌Singapore, and industry members, needs to understand who the destination is going to appeal to, be “much more targeted” and “sharpen and refine marketing messages”.

‌Lachmandas gave the example of business events looking for “a certain quality, a certain brand – leveraging on the Singapore trademark – and are willing to pay.

‌“Delivering service excellence is complex and it has been reduced to a simplistic perspective – customer service,” she said, adding that every industry, not only tourism, needs to understand how to provide what the customer needs, pivot to the customer and be “customer obsessed”.

‌According to Lachmandas, customer satisfaction data shows Singapore “has done well” and “has improved”; still, organisations need “to reorganise and think very, very differently about customer journey mapping”.

‌Singapore also needs to understand “price versus value” and “the concept of value for the customer”, she highlighted.

STB’s Tan: Singapore cannot be a low-cost destination

‌“Technology is important but it cannot be the starting point and I advocate a chief customer officer in every company. This person (should) understand customer satisfaction research, what customer experience means, is data savvy, understands empathy and is designed-trained.”

‌Cinn Tan, chief commercial and marketing officer, Pan Pacific Hotels Group (PPHG), commented that Singapore could count on its highly educated and skilled workforce.

‌She pointed out Singapore is recognised as a global city and is deeply connected to the neighbouring region and many other parts of the world. Quoting STB, she said there were 180,000 visitors from Latin America and Africa in 2019.

‌Singapore as a quality tourism destination also has to focus on the continuous upgrade of its “lifestyle infrastructure”.

‌“Conscious travellers are a rapidly growing visitor segment,” PPHG’s Tan noted. “Singapore has a stronghold in urban greening with great potential to become a top sustainable urban destination and leader in environmentally friendly hospitality.”

‌Meeting planners and events are picking Singapore for its world-class facilities, international outlook and a business-friendly environment, she quipped.

‌She opined that Singapore can cater to “travellers looking to deviate from a standardised one-size-fits-all customer experience” towards more authentic, personalised journeys, noting that the industry is seeking to shift towards creating more opportunities for customisation and personal connections.

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