Future of tourism lies in sustainability, innovation and wellness

Instead of waiting for world borders to reopen, Singapore needs to disrupt the status quo. For the tourism industry, the next big moves lie in sustainable travel solutions, technological innovation and holistic wellness.

This was highlighted by speakers at the opening of the Tourism Industry Conference yesterday.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the tourism sector had faced disruption even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

For instance, apps were replacing tour guides, maps and travel agents, and virtual or augmented reality allowed people to enjoy immersive experiences without leaving home.

The challenge is how Singapore will prepare for the long-term future, Mr Chan said.

Sustainable tourism presents growth opportunities, especially as tourists become more conscious about the environment.

The Government will pump $68.5 million into the Tourism Development Fund, which businesses can tap to explore new areas, including sustainability.

"In terms of the abundance of land and natural landscapes, Singapore might not be able to compete directly with other eco-destinations," Mr Chan said.

But the Republic's progressive and transparent regulatory environment and strong intellectual property protection will make it an attractive place for companies looking to test-bed sustainable tourism products and experiences.

Another strength is the vibrant public and private ecosystem that facilitates effective partnerships for businesses and workers to grow their capabilities, Mr Chan said.

The tourism sector should also leverage technology to create a unique experience for tourists and residents, he said.

"In a world where visitors are not constrained by physical boundaries, travel is no longer just about meeting or sightseeing but the unique suite of experiences it offers to visitors from pre-arrival to post-departure."

To support industry players in digital transformation, STB yesterday launched its innovation platform, Tourism Technology Transformation Cube.

Mr Chan said the challenge for Singapore is to prepare for long-term success and reinvent global travel.

"We are not waiting for a full reopening. Singapore is prepared to disrupt the status quo, transform our products and services, and harness our capabilities to capture the next type of growth ahead." 

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.