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International Tourism thinktank stresses the urgency to remake Singapore`s tourism landscape

The recently concluded meeting of the International Advisory Council for Tourism (IACT) has reiterated the need for a fundamental shift…

The recently concluded meeting of the International Advisory Council for Tourism (IACT) has reiterated the need for a fundamental shift in the broad strategies of the tourism industry, in light of the changes in the tourism marketplace and intensified competition for the tourist dollar.

The Council, comprising global leaders in the tourism, arts, hospitality and media industries, has endorsed many of the recommendations of the Tourism Working Group under Singapore<.>`s Economic Review Committee. The members also stressed the need for changes and new strategies to be implemented speedily.

Among the topics discussed at the two-day meeting from 10 to 11 October: defining Singapore`s unique selling points, evaluating the current destination branding as well as addressing challenges to the operating environment such as visa requirements and flight accessibility.

Mr Mike Rusbridge, Chairman, Reed Exhibitions, UK said, The Singapore branding needs to be emotive whilst playing to its uniqueness and to its core assets. The message should be consistent but flexible enough to accommodate the various niche segments that Singapore seeks to attract.

Dr. Cheong Choong Kong Deputy Chairman and CEO, Singapore Airlines Ltd, Singapore, added, Singapore is a convenient gateway to the region. We should adopt a collaborative approach to market the region with our neighbouring countries.

The IACT members agreed that much more should be done to tap the markets of the two growing Asian powerhouses, China and India.

Ms Yang Lan, Chairperson, Sun TV Networks, People`s Republic of China said, Singapore is viewed as a role model in China. It is known not only as a Garden City but a harmonious country with an efficient government. Singapore already has a positive image in the minds of Chinese. The Board should tap on this to strengthen Singapore`s `star` image as a `must-see` destination.

Ranjit Malkani, Chairman and CEO, Kuoni Travel India and Asia, offered many insights on emerging travel patterns. As more than 70% of Singapore`s visitors are from Asia, there should not be over-emphasis on Singapore`s `Asian-ness`. Many Asians would not be interested. Rather, I feel Singapore should promote its progressiveness, modernity and sophistication. Asians want to see how the influence of the West has made Singapore what it is today. I feel the East meets West positioning is an excellent proposition.

He added, Also, the Indians are incredibly passionate about movies. Perhaps what Singapore needs is a Bollywood ambassador to raise its profile in the country.

The need to boost arrivals from traditional markets was also underlined. Mr. Koji Shinmachi, Chairman, Japan Association of Travel Agents, Japan, said Singapore should take advantage of its reputation for safety. He said, Safety is an important factor for the Japanese when making travel decisions. Singapore should capitalise on this and other strengths such as its education services. The marketing message should reiterate that what Singapore has to offer can be found `Only in Singapore`.

Also endorsed by IACT was the need to exploit the potential of Singapore`s educational and medical services, and the need to create new niche markets.

The Honourable Jeff Kennett, Past Premier of Victoria, Australia commented, The backpacker market profile is changing. It now comprises more educated travellers and can potentially become a higher-yield segment than before. The Board may want to consider an action plan to target this market. Also, one of the successes of Singapore is in the preservation of its old world charm. Singapore should avoid the pitfalls of urbanisation and preserve its heritage and culture.

Mr Robert Palmer, President and CEO, Palmer/Rae Associates, International Cultural Consultants, Brussels, said the Lion City has great potential to be one of the world`s leading arts cities. Singapore has already generated considerable buzz with the opening of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. While the Esplanade will be the anchor attraction for tourists, there is a need for a range of performance spaces to complement the arts complex. For shows with longer runs, venues like the Capitol theatre should be quickly set up.

The Chairman of IACT, Mr Wee Ee-chao, who is also STB`s Chairman, expressed his appreciation to the IACT members for their invaluable contributions. He said, Singapore is indeed on the threshold of many new challenges. With increasing competition for the tourism dollar, and an uncertain international political and economic climate, Singapore has to be creative in finding solutions, and be bold in implementing them. We definitely cannot afford to stand still.

The Singapore Tourism Board, working in tandem with the industry, will study and implement where feasible, the recommendations of the Council.

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