SINGAPORE: Additional financing worth a total of S$700 million will be allocated to a third tranche of the Tourism Development Fund from 2016 to 2020, announced Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran at the Tourism Industry Conference 2016 on Monday (Apr 25).
The Tourism Development Fund was introduced in 2005, with an initial amount of S$2 billion. It was subsequently topped up with additional funding of S$905 million in 2012.
Mr Iswaran said the latest investment will focus on enhancing the quality of Singapore's products to ensure the local tourism landscape remains attractive.
Another key priority is technology adoption and innovation, he added, citing the benefits of data analytics and robotics in helping to better understand and engage visitors.
One attraction that has made use of technology to improve the experience for visitors is Gardens by the Bay. It launched its mobile app at the end of 2014; it has about 20,000 users to date.
Gardens by the Bay's director of business development, Mr Darren Oh, told Channel NewsAsia the app was a way to help visitors navigate the 54-hectare Gardens.
"The operating hours are actually very long, from early morning to 2am, so having somebody on the ground to engage these visitors is quite difficult," he said, adding that the app had games to make the experience more interactive, and was available in multiple languages.
Mr Iswaran also announced that the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) would expand the scope of support under the Business Improvement Fund. This includes a time-limited Hotel Retrofitting Grant for hoteliers seeking to redesign existing premises to implement solutions that can enhance productivity, as well as funding to equip manpower with the right skills.
Going forward, the minister said long-term strategies are required to capture growth prospects in the region, while short-term measures are needed to cope with current economic volatility and uncertainty.
Mr Iswaran said: "The partnership between Government and industry stakeholders is central to sustain these nascent improvements, and also to support the sector's further development for the long term ... The aim is to ensure our industries are well-positioned for changes in a complex and competitive global environment."
FUNDING CAN HELP STRENGTHEN MARKETING TO NEW MARKETS
STB says the additional funding can help to support industry efforts in line with its push for quality tourism. One key strategy the government agency has been looking to strengthen is marketing, and reaching out to target geographies and customer segments. It says it is ramping up efforts to reach out to “second-tier cities” in top source markets including Indonesia, China and India.
STB's chief executive, Mr Lionel Yeo, said the statutory board saw a lot of potential in working millennials for a leisure destination like Singapore.
"The story of Asia is really the rise of a lot of working millennials and they're going to be earning higher incomes than their parents or their grandparents. That will put them into the category where they can aspire to and actually fulfil international travel," he said.
Mr Yeo added that in Asia as well as Europe and North America, there are good segments of active older people with high incomes due to demographics and an ageing population.
This group is quite wealthy, and is "looking for meaningful ways to spend their retirement years", he said.
STB said it expects visitor arrivals to grow between 0 and 3 per cent, and tourism receipts to increase by between 0 and 2 per cent in 2016.