Singapore's New Travel Focus. (Tourism Asia)

Article excerpt

As the US economy, along with the rest of the world, continues to plod along, Asia's countries can no longer rely on exports as their only source of foreign income. As a result, tourism has become an increasingly important sector of Asia's economy. In this first part of a new Business Asia series, TAMSYN SMITH examines how Singapore is planning to lure more visitors to its shores.

Singapore is renowned for being a manufacturing Mecca--but the global downturn has led to a shake up of priorities. Hence the rise in status of Singapore's tourism industry, which currently makes up five per cent of GDP, bringing in S$10 billion ($10.5 billion) in tourism receipts annually.

Asad Shiraz, senior director of tourism marketing for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), says the tourism sector is beginning to receive an increased economic profile.

"(Tourism) is getting more attention from the Government, and that's always good," he said.

The STB is a government body set up for the primary purpose of promoting tourism into Singapore, which involves marketing through 16 offices around the world.

Asian blend

The latest marketing drive is the "New Asia Singapore" campaign, which focuses on the country's blend of modernity and traditional Asia. This incorporates its cosmopolitan culture, fun atmosphere, clean environment, and hassle-free travel.

"We really are a convenient gateway to the rest of South-East Asia," says Shiraz.

He says that as welt as branding the country, it has been necessary to give people a reason to come. Natural phenomena was not a major draw card, so Singapore was increasingly being positioned as an "eventful" city.

"With Singapore being a small city state, we have had to invent, manufacture and improve things we can put on the tourism map," Shiraz says. "Events and the arts are something we have been banking on in the past few years."

Events push

Currently, there are around 4000 events each year, ranging from drama, sport and food exhibitions.

The focus can vary from time to time. For example, this year the emphasis was on the arts.

Singapore is scheduled to open a new performing arts centre soon, which Shiraz says will rival the Sydney Opera House.

"Events provide us with the opportunity to change the experience every time you come," he said. …