Singapore considers itself as a primary tourism destination thanks to the increasing number of attractions available to visitors. Over the last ten years, Singapore tourism has continuously redefined itself, adding new attractions such as Esplanade theatres, new museums such as the Asian Civilization Museum or the future National Gallery, the FORMULA 1™ SingTel Singapore Grand Prix, Singapore Air Show, the Singapore Flyer, the transformation of Chinatown with a myriad of late-night food outlets or the complete revamping of Orchard Road with glitzy new facades and shopping malls.
In 2010 and 2011, the opening of Singapore two integrated resorts with casinos –Resort Worlds at Sentosa with Southeast Asia unique Universal Studios and Sands Marina Bay- should further boost Singapore’s appeal for international travelers.
According to a blueprint for tourism, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) targeted in 2005 a total of 17 million international travelers by 2015 compared to 8.9 million by 2005 and 10.1 million in 2008. By the time however, STB could not forecast that the World financial crisis would have most probably eradicated three years of growth. New estimations from the STB foresee 9 to 9.5 million international visitors in 2009.
However, knows also that parts of its appeal to foreigners comes from its inter-twining with other destinations in the region. “ We tend to work with countries offering a difference experience to what travelers will get in Singapore. For many years, we have already cooperated with destinations such as Bali or Bintan in Indonesia as well as Australia,” explains Chew Tiong Heng, STB director destination marketing.
Singapore is now looking increasingly to promote itself with China. “ It makes economic sense to act for some markets as a gateway to Mainland China, especially for business travelers, MICE planners or in the education field as we can be a good introduction to the Chinese world,” says Chew.
Promoting common cultural heritage with neighbors could in fact be trickier. Both Malaysia and Indonesia are regularly fighting with each other over cultural icons’ claims such as batik or traditional dances. With Malaysia, Singapore recognizes to have a lot in common and is consequently more careful in its approach. “Malaysia is our closest neighbor as we share common history and roots. But we look to advertise together for Mainland China on combination tours. With the development of our new international cruise terminal, we also think that a combined Malaysia-Singapore tour will be ideal for short-stay cruise activities,” adds Chew.
Malacca on the Malaysian side is an ideal complement to Singapore as could be in the future Legoland Park Malaysia in Johor Bahru. “ We need to explore more ways to promote together ASEAN common heritage. We have for example this unique Peranakan heritage [Sino-Malay heritage from the region] that is only available in Singapore, Malacca, Penang and Perak. We could work out interesting circuits for culture–oriented travelers,” tells Chew.
Education and Health tourism are likely to boost cooperation with other countries in the region. “ Singapore is a true gateway for Asia. Why not to come to us for health and education reasons and then relax for a few days in Phuket, Bali or Langkawi,” envisions Chew.