Apr 19, 2021
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The move is among the 2030 targets of the government under the green economy, which is one of the five key pillars within the Singapore Green Plan unveiled earlier this year.

Experts are confident that Singapore can achieve its goal of becoming a sustainable tourism destination, despite the challenges facing it.

In applauding Singapore’s decision to embrace the concept of sustainable tourism, Christopher Khoo, Managing Director of international tourism consultancy Masterconsult Services, told Channel News Asia (CNA) that the move is not only the “right way to go”, but is also the “responsible thing to do”.

CNA reported that the move is among the 2030 targets of the government under the green economy, which is one of the five key pillars within the Singapore Green Plan unveiled earlier this year.

“Ten years from now, we also expect that global tourism will have sprung back into a more vibrant sector. Tourists will have a greater interest in sustainable travel options, for example, eco-friendly hotels and attractions,” said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing in his speech in Parliament during the Joint Segment on Sustainability last month.

“To prepare ourselves for these opportunities, we are transforming Sentosa into a carbon-neutral destination by 2030. Through such efforts, we will strengthen Singapore as an exemplary sustainable tourism destination,” he said as quoted by CNA.

According to World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO), sustainable tourism should include three main objectives, which include making “optimal use” of environmental resources and helping conserve natural biodiversity and heritage.

It also entails respecting the host communities’ socio-cultural authenticity and ensuring viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders which are “fairly distributed”.

Khoo said sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly important as more people recognise the need to be responsible.

He noted that travellers now have become “more discerning” with their choice of service providers within the country they visit.

“As more travellers are aware of the importance of sustainability, they will look out for products that are eco-friendly and purchase from businesses that embrace sustainability. Singapore as a destination cannot ignore sustainability and it makes business sense to embrace it,” said Ngee Ann Polytechnic Senior Lecturer in tourism Michael Chiam as quoted by CNA.

“Many Singapore tourism-related businesses are already embracing the sustainable initiatives. What businesses can do is to dive deeper into adopting more and more sustainable processes in their businesses.”

Dr Kevin Cheong, Chairman of the Association of Singapore Attractions, said new attractions coming on stream should also start designing their attractions with sustainability in mind.

In March, Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) unveiled plans to transform the resort island into a carbon-neutral destination by 2030.

“It is possible for Sentosa to lead the way in reducing its carbon emissions and trialling new solutions, given the unique island environment and SDC being a single precinct operator working hand in hand with the community on Sentosa,” it said as quoted by CNA.

Suggested read: 6 Sustainable Residences in Singapore for Families Going Green

“SDC will identify and work with technology partners to testbed sustainable technologies and concepts on Sentosa, while also bringing on board some 200 businesses within Sentosa to work towards the aspiration of island carbon neutrality.”

Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) President Kwee Wei-Lin believes the hotel industry can “safeguard” its future by embracing sustainability. Some of the ways in which hotels can contribute is by providing filtered water taps instead of plastic bottled water in guest rooms, recycling bins in guest rooms and having paperless check-in and check-out process.

“Greening the supply chain is also an important part of our journey towards sustainable tourism,” said Kwee as quoted by CNA. “Hotels can work with vendors to use environmentally-friendly packaging materials, request for suppliers to minimise packaging for their deliveries, provide eco-friendly products, which could range from office supplies to furniture and paints to cleaning products, as well as to source from sustainable food sources.”

She revealed that SHA has also set up the Hotel Sustainability Committee (HSC) which is tasked to “conceptualise solutions and strategies that bring together sustainability and commercial value”.

Khoo said Singapore also has to hold itself up to a certain set of standards as the city-state tries to achieve its goal.

“Different countries have got different accreditation schemes … These accreditation schemes are usually very specific to regions or destinations,” he said.

Meanwhile, STB Chief Executive Keith Tan announced during STB’s annual industry conference last week plans to approach industry players in the coming months to share its thoughts on developing strategies as well as a roadmap for destination sustainability.

“Ultimately, we don’t just want to be known as a sustainable destination, but as a great location for companies to test bed sustainable tourism solutions,” he said, citing examples like a net zero-carbon hotel or entertainment event.

While the city-state is not typically considered a nature destination, it has several “pluses” that it can use to its advantage, said Khoo.

“Being clean and green is a big advantage. We’ve always had that. And then we’ve got the advantage of having four superb nature parks … We do have a very soft side, and that in the part is actually going to be pushed a little bit more when the Mandai area is further developed,” he said.

“So we’ve got a very balanced product in that sense, in terms of saying that we are also sustainable.”

Experts pointed to associated costs as an issue to achieving this goal.

“I think cost or managing costs will always be an issue, as Singapore looks to implement different standards, for instance, it will just mean that our businesses have to adhere to something that in the future will become more important,” said Khoo.

Shirley Tee, Senior Manager at Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Business Management, described the $68.5 million to be pumped by the government into the Tourism Development Fund for businesses planning to test-bed sustainable tourism offerings as a “good sign” that the city-state is moving in the right direction.

Dr Cheong said attraction operators would also need help from the government as they seek to make their operation more sustainable.

“(Cost) is where we hope the government can give us a leg up,” he said.

“COVID-19 has hit us deep in the core, our financial core. Many smaller attractions, SME (small- and medium-size enterprises) attractions may not have the financial appetite … But I think if we do it collectively, in a single-minded manner, with government support, I think we can make a difference.”

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Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this story, email: victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg

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