Tourism push gears up

Tourism development in Singapore is ever-evolving, bringing more attractions to see and be immersed in. This Singapore guide explores the latest chapter in the Lion City's evolution.

First there was just “old style Singapore”. Singapore slings, sleepy old Raffles, a bit of shopping, a ride on a bum boat and a tidied up Bugis Street.

Then came the first big developments on Sentosa Island, as Resorts World Sentosa put down roots, and Marina Bay, as the triple-towered Marina Bay Sands Hotel reared up and the glazed domes of Gardens by the Bay stared out like humungous insect eyes.

That phase of Singapore’s development provided three distinct and quite different areas to choose from.

The F1 night race brought zing, visitor numbers continued to increase, from 11.1 million international arrivals in 2008 to 18.5 million in 2018, but there was a sense that the island nation’s tourism had happily plateaued for a while.

It is now gearing up for the next phase in tourism. Singaporeans are acutely aware that they have 2.8 billion people within a seven-hour flight radius.

The standout symbol of this is the S$9 billion expansion plans of Singapore’s two integrated resorts. The 3.3ha site alone has cost S$1.3 billion.

Resorts World Sentosa has a budget of S$1 billion to add to its existing site, and to buy around one hectare of new land.

Singapore Tourism Board is behind the scenes, identifying and exploring investment opportunities for tourism developments, and the Singapore government fosters the pro-business environment, priding itself on the World Bank comment that Singapore is still considered one of the “world’s easiest places to do business”.

Singapore’s senior minister for trade and industry, Mr Chee Hong Tat, recently told Parliament: “When there are substantial investments that can benefit our economy and our workers, the government is open to directly allocate land to these investors.” But he added that “the IRs will pay fair market value for their land”.

Just a couple of months ago, the two IRs said they’d each invest S$4.5 billion.

And the expansion is expected to bring an extra 500,000 international visitors each year to Singapore. That’s been equated to an extra S$500 million in income.

So, both Marina Bay and Sentosa — two of those three areas I mentioned – are stepping up to another level.

And so too is “old Singapore” — Clarke Quay, Orchard Road, Chinatown, Little India and the Arab Quarter.

Raffles Singapore is currently closed for restoration, and is scheduled to reopen next month.

Its Long Bar, the home of the legendary Singapore Sling, is back in its original location, fully restored. The Raffles Gift Shop makes a return to Raffles Arcade as the Raffles Boutique.

But the broader signs are that Singapore’s future is in expand tourism more evenly across the whole island.

Large scale projects and Singapore Tourism Board marketing will drive these, as part of a government strategy to embed tourism across communities and local economies — bringing visitors to the areas where locals live and work.