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Singapore’s Tourism Board uses technology and digitisation to support sector during pandemic

OpenGov recently had the opportunity to interview Mr Quek Choon Yang, Chief Technology Officer, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on how technology and digitization will play a role in the tourism sector during this critical period and what recommendations would he make to existing businesses in the Tourism Industry during the circuit breaker period.

Mr Quek Choon Yang explained that the aim of the Learn-Test-Build framework is to help tourism businesses in Singapore build capabilities to succeed in the digital age. With COVID-19, this framework has also become critical in helping businesses build resilience and position themselves for recovery.

The Tourism Transformation Index (TXI) is like a company’s annual health check-up in this age of disruption. Part of the “Learn” pillar, the TXI is a self-diagnostic tool for companies to assess their strengths, identify areas of opportunity and garner recommendations on next steps to take in their digital transformation journey.

The tool provides a holistic measure of the business’s current state of transformation across six domains: leadership and organisation, process and operations, customer, innovation, technology and data.

On STB’s end, this is an important first step that will allow us to identify areas of intervention for our stakeholders. TXI will be launched in Q2 2020 and companies can now indicate their interest to participate in the assessment once it is released.

In addition, companies can also take advantage of the STB Tech College to put their internal transformation teams through a digital equipping and change leader course to better prepare for this change.

As part of the “Test” pillar, we are creating platforms for tourism stakeholders to test their ideas, with the opening of a co-innovation space in STB later this year called ThreeHouse.

Companies can collaborate with one another or with us, workshop and prototype new ideas and solutions here. In innovation circles, there’s a common adage: “think big, start small, scale fast”. With ThreeHouse, we want to support companies to ideate and come up with a minimal viable product that can be quickly tested in the marketplace.

Where necessary, we are prepared to make policy sandboxes to pilot new ideas that may not be fully compliant with our existing policies. If successful, we will help companies scale up the idea onto a bigger platform.

Co-located with the Singapore Tourism Accelerator, we hope that ThreeHouse will also draw on the best ideas from innovative start-ups around the world in the Accelerator to ideate new solutions to pressing problems.

Lastly, under the “Build” pillar, we have a number of software services to help companies accelerate their implementation.

What do you hope these initiatives will achieve for the Tourism Sector post COVID-19?

Post-COVID, we expect consumer behaviour and the norms for travel to change for good. In addition to seeking seamless, delightful and memorable experiences, consumers are also likely to come out of the pandemic with a heightened sense of hygiene, both personal and environmental.

Hence it is important for tourism businesses to build trust with consumers, provide safety for visitors and be able to influence consumer choices. To survive and even thrive in this new normal, businesses need to be armed with the right data, insights and ability to test and scale new products fast.

It is crucial for the tourism industry to use this time to build digital capabilities to support overall recovery efforts. Tourism businesses must understand these changes and implement measures now to address these shifts in the future. While many Singapore companies have already started on their digital transformation journey, we need to accelerate our efforts.

With the current situation where global air travel and tourism are at a standstill, it is essential for tourism businesses to maintain their international presence digitally – even if their customers are not here, and build demand for when the market recovers. It is important for companies to be able to market and sell their services digitally, and do it well.

Have STB any other future digital initiatives in the pipeline to support the sector?

We hope that tourism businesses will make use of the resources outlined in the Learn-Test Build framework to transform their businesses, so that they will be well positioned for recovery when the time comes.

We have signed MOUs with 9 tourism businesses across our core sectors to co-create road maps for their digital transformation, leveraging our Learn-Test-Build framework. These include Amara Hotels & Resorts, Singapore Flyer and SingEx Holdings.

We will continue to organise workshops and networking sessions for industry partners to share about the various tech and digital solutions available. We have seen a good level of interest from the industry and this shows us that they are actively thinking about innovation and positioning themselves for recovery.

How do we kick start tourists coming back to Singapore?

Restarting our marketing efforts and bringing visitors back to Singapore will be our priority once there are signs of recovery. We are already preparing for the eventual recovery, with S$90 million set aside to support industry recovery efforts when the time is right.

We do not expect a quick rebound in visitor arrivals to Singapore, as it will take a while for people to open up to the idea of travelling again.

Once things start showing signs of improvement, we will focus on the following areas:

First, domestic recovery – building confidence among Singaporeans so they can act as advocates for our overseas visitors. We are working with industry partners through the Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC) to develop domestic campaigns.

Second, having a targeted approach in terms of external markets because some sectors and markets will recover faster than others.

Third, supporting our tourism stakeholders to innovate and adapt to a postCOVID new normal. This includes the launch of the LTB framework, aimed at supporting the industry as they introduce innovations to make large-scale business and leisure events both safe and sustainable.

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