Thursday, January 13, 2005

Singapore Tourism Board sets ambitious targets 

The Singapore Tourism Board wants more tourists to come — many more, in fact.

Singapore aims to double tourist arrivals in next decade
The Singapore Tourism Board has set bold targets for the next decade. It aims to triple tourism receipts to S$30 billion, double tourist arrivals to 17 million, and create 100,000 additional jobs in the tourism industry by 2015.
Today, The Straits Times reported that members of the industry say “all Singaporeans need to get in on the act”.

[E]veryone in the industry agrees on one thing: Singapore needs to brush up on its service. And that requires a change in mindset among Singaporeans...

President of the Singapore Retailers Association Jannie Tay said: “Singaporeans are ambitious and always seek high level positions, but what will be a greater need are entry level, hard-working front-line service staff... The local workforce, by and large, lacks the right attitude and aptitude to fill these jobs.”

Unless the people change their attitude, Mr Rajakumar [Chandra, the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association’s honorary secretary] said, Singapore will have to resort to labour imports.
Labour imports would obviously negate one of the reasons for the Singapore Tourism Board’s plan.

The relatively poor quality of service staff in Singapore is well-known. But it’s not always the workers’ fault. Employers and customers (see a previous post on the latter) have roles to play in their performance. People in the service industry need to do more than just complain about workers’ attitude.

But part of the problem with a top-directed economy is that it often moves off in a direction before all the pieces are in place. In the early 1980s, the Singapore government wanted a higher value-added economy and so it forced up wages, but since Singaporeans couldn’t immediately become more productive, this only helped precipitate a recession in 1985. In the 1990s, it wanted to build up Singapore’s financial industry, but with regulatory oversight lacking, it only helped Nick Leeson bring down Barings Bank in 1995.

This is not to say that the moves were necessarily wrong. Only that when the government tries to move things by pulling people from the top, the experience can be quite hair-raising.

Maybe the Singapore Tourism Board should just be satisfied with the spillover traffic resulting from the tsunami disaster.

Singapore replaces Thailand after tsunami
Following a downturn in business in Southeast Asia, tours to Singapore during the post-tsunami period have increased by 20 to 30 percent, compared to the same time in the previous year, the Youth Daily reported today... “Instead of Thailand, Singapore is now the leader among the Southeast Asia tourist destinations. This provides a profitable opportunity for us,” according to several local famous travel agencies...
Hopefully, Singapore’s tourism industry can handle that.


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