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With steep declines in Singapore’s visitor arrivals amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, many tourism businesses in the city-state are struggling to stay afloat despite layoffs and other cost-cutting measures.
In June 2020, there were just 2,200 visitors to Singapore, down from 1.6 million a year ago, according to latest figures from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), a government agency tasked to grow and promote the country’s tourism industry.
Like other industries hit by the pandemic, the tourism sector has been called upon to embrace digitalisation and speed up transformation efforts to tap new opportunities, improve visitor experience and bolster efficiency.
“The reality is that we’ve been transforming for a number of years,” said Quek Choon Yang, STB’s chief technology officer, referring to ongoing transformation efforts in the local tourism industry. “What we want to do during this very difficult period is to try to accelerate that transformation.”
To that end, the STB announced a transformation framework in April 2020 that comprises three key stages. In the learn stage of the framework, businesses will learn more about themselves and concepts in digital transformation through a tourism transformation index.
Essentially a diagnostic tool for tourism businesses to assess their strengths and identify areas of improvement, the index also recommends the next steps they can take towards digital transformation.
This is followed by the test stage, where businesses can test concepts quickly, with low levels of risk and investment. “If their concept works, then they can very quickly scale it up to earn revenue from it,” said Quek.
A co-creation space located on the third floor of STB’s office is also being planned. Called ThreeHouse, it will bring together industry players to develop new ideas, which can be brought to fruition under the Singapore Tourism Accelerator (STA) programme.
“What the STA does is to bring the best ideas from small companies around the world and have them develop solutions that are fit for Singapore,” said Quek, adding that these ideas would comply with local laws including those on privacy and data protection.
The last cog in STB’s framework is about building common technology tools to facilitate transformation in the tourism sector, starting with a data analytics platform called Stan, or the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network.
Read more about digital transformation in ASEAN
- Singapore’s SingEx started its digital transformation journey a few years ago and has already pivoted its approach to cope with new challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- At DBS Bank, the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated the value of technology and the investments it made over the past decade to modernise its technology stack.
- Malaysian enterprises are taking steps to modernise their infrastructure, but many are still grappling with the lack of niche IT skills in key emerging technologies such as the internet of things.
- Southeast Asian companies plan to spend more on infrastructure and cyber security, but the growth in IT budgets appears to be slowing down.
With Stan, tourism businesses can view visualisations and analyse tourism-related data such as visitor traits, geography and time frame, aggregated from STB and the industry, to derive actionable insights on visitors.
At this critical juncture, Quek said tourism companies can use the data from Stan to plan for their post-pandemic recovery, and to better understand local tourists who are now the focus of STB’s new S$45m domestic tourism campaign.
Another new initiative that Quek highlighted is the Visit Singapore pass, a digital pass launched a few weeks ago to unify digital standards for e-ticketing.
“If you look at experiences in other parts of the world where people buy e-tickets, at the end of a trip they may end up with 10 different e-tickets,” said Quek. “We wanted to create a single digital ticket, so each time you show up at an event or attraction, you show the same pass and you’ll be able to get in.”
This creates a frictionless experience for visitors and is particularly important at a time when people do not want to handle paper tickets, said Quek. For tourism establishments, adopting the Visit Singapore pass will also alleviate the need for them to invest in their own e-ticketing platforms.
Quek said many tourism industry players have started to leverage STB’s resources to transform their businesses. To date, STB has signed nine memorandums-of-understanding to help tourism businesses, such as Amara Hotels and Resorts and Singapore Flyer, co-create their digital transformation roadmaps through its three-step framework.
STB itself is also digitalising its operations. It works with technology partners such as Adobe, whose products have helped it to better understand how people relate to the experiences of its digital touchpoints, such as the STB website and mobile app, to deliver content and services that resonate better with visitors.