Singapore Tourism Board



The Singapore Tourism Board (STB), a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, is responsible for developing Singapore’s tourism sector as well as promoting and marketing Singapore as a tourist destination.1 The board started operations as the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (STPB) on 1 January 1964.2

Formation
Although Singapore had the potential to be developed into a great tourist destination in the 1960s, the private sector had limited resources at the time to promote Singapore abroad. The Singapore Tourist Association thus called for greater government involvement and funding to help develop the tourism industry in Singapore.3

In January 1963, then Minister for Culture S. Rajaratnam announced that tourism would be developed as a major industry in Singapore.4 In July the same year, then Minister for Finance Goh Keng Swee said that the government would provide funding and resources for the promotion of tourism. He opined that developing the tourism industry would have positive economic benefits for Singapore as it could generate income and jobs, and create trade opportunities.5

The STPB was established on 1 January 1964 in accordance with the Tourism Board Ordinance passed in December the previous year.6 The board’s mission was to coordinate activities of tourist enterprises, regulate standards and carry out an extensive publicity campaign.7 In addition to government funding, the board’s main source of funding was derived from the 3 percent cess or tax levied on occupied rooms in hotels.8

K. M. Byrne was appointed first chairman of the board, with Lim Joo Hock as director. The STPB’s premises was located in John Little’s building in Raffles Place. A separate section of the office was specially demarcated to provide tourists with information and assistance.9

1960s–1970s

From the outset, the board put much effort and resources into promoting Singapore overseas. It allocated S$750,000 for an advertising campaign and selected American public relations firm Campbell and Mitchun to mount the campaign in the United States.10 Publicity was mainly carried out in the United States and Australia, and in Japan at a smaller scale.11 The STPB also published a monthly newsletter, Singapore Travel News, which was distributed to travel agents, hotels and others in the travel industry overseas.12 In 1964, the Merlion was adopted as STPB’s emblem and used in all its promotional materials.13

The board also began using taglines to brand Singapore as a tourist destination. These taglines were crafted to resonate with the target audiences, and to embody the experiences and values that Singapore had to offer. In the early years, “Instant Asia” was used to convey the idea of Singapore as a holiday destination that combined the sights, tastes and cultures of Asia’s main ethnic groups. In 1977, “Surprising Singapore” was adopted to market Singapore as a city of diverse exotic experiences set in a modern city.14

In Singapore, various activities were organised to involve the local community in the tourism initiative. These include Tourist Week and Miss Tourism Singapura contests, first started in 1965.15 That year, an essay competition centred on the economic benefits of tourism was organised for secondary school students.16

Besides attracting tourists, the board also began its regulatory functions. Within months of its formation, the board issued regulations that all Singapore tourist guides had to be registered with the board, and were required to undergo training and proficiency tests. Guides who were discourteous or who contravened the provisions of the regulations risk removal from the board’s register.17

In 1970, the STPB moved its office to Tudor Court on Tanglin Road, which placed it in closer proximity to major hotels on Orchard Road.18 In the same year, the board’s first four regional offices were established in London, England; San Francisco, United States; Sydney, Australia; and Tokyo, Japan. This number has since increased to 20.19

In the decade of the 1970s, the board saw potential in developing Singapore as a convention centre. It established the Singapore Convention Bureau in April 1974 in an effort to promote Singapore as a convention and conference venue. The bureau adopted the theme “Singapore – where the world comes together” as the basis of its work and activities.20

By 1974, the STPB had grown to become a more robust institution involved in activities such as research, marketing, the creation of attractions and encouraging private sector efforts to enhance the tourist industry. By this time, it had also expanded its overseas representation by establishing offices in America, Australia, Japan and various cities across Europe.21

The board’s activities began to bear fruit with a growing number of tourist arrivals to Singapore.22 Tourist arrivals rose from 522,000 in 1970 to over 1.5 million in 1977. In the same period, tourist expenditure increased from S$269 million in 1970 to S$628 million in 1977.23

1980s–1990s
In 1981, the government identified the tourism industry as one of the pillars of growth in its 10-year economic development plan.24 The industry, however, performed poorly in 1982 and 1983. This was attributed to several reasons, one of which was that tourists felt that Singapore was losing its cultural and historical appeal compared with neighbouring countries.25


In 1984, a tourism task force chaired by then Minister of State for Trade and Industry Wong Kwei Cheong was convened to formulate a masterplan to revive Singapore’s tourism sector. The task force was a joint effort between various government bodies and private enterprises, and comprised government officials, hoteliers, travel agents, merchants and convention organisers.26 One of the key recommendations of the task force was to enhance existing attractions and develop new ones.27 The task force also called for the preservation of historical areas like Chinatown and the development of new infrastructure such as a multipurpose indoor stadium that could be used for holding concerts and conventions.28

In December 1985, the STPB launched Merlion Week to attract tourists to the country and make Singaporeans aware of the importance of tourism to the economy. The weeklong activities include a light-up of Orchard Road, the crowning of Miss Tourism, a musical show and a telematch.29 The event proved popular with both locals and tourists alike, and was held annually until 1990.30 In 1994, the STPB launched the Singapore Food Festival and The Great Singapore Sale to attract more tourists to Singapore.31 The two festivals have since grown in size and prestige, both becoming annual events.32


In 1986, the STPB unveiled its first tourism masterplan – the Tourism Product Development Plan (1986 to 1990) – whose objectives were to increase the number of visitors to Singapore, the length of their stay and their spending in Singapore.33 The government committed S$1 billion to this effort.34 Following the recommendations of the tourism task force, the five-year development plan recommended the conservation and revitalisation of selected historical sites as well as the development of new attractions such as Sentosa. Under the plan, the STPB would serve as a catalyst and coordinator between the government, private sector and foreign consultants.35

In 1994, Tan Chin Nam was appointed chief executive of the STPB, and he set in motion an extensive consultation exercise to seek consensus for a new vision for tourism growth in Singapore and the means to achieve it.36 Following an initial review, four committees comprising top public and private sector executives were formed in February 1995 to develop a “strategic architecture” to boost Singapore’s tourism industry. The result was a vision for Singapore to become a tourism capital by the 21st century through six strategic thrusts. In this plan, which came to be known as “Tourism 21”, the STPB would take on the principal coordinating and championing role for tourism.37


In 1995, the board moved its headquarters to Tourism Court at 1 Orchard Spring Lane, signaling the start of a new era.38 In 1995, the tagline “Surprising Singapore” was replaced with “New Asia – Singapore” to depict Singapore as “a place where tradition and modernity, East and West, meet and intermingle comfortably”.39

In 1996, the government approved an initial budget of S$600 million to realise three of the key recommendations put forth in the “Tourism 21” plan: developing Chinatown into a colourful ethnic zone, establishing a new tourism development assistance scheme and creating a mega exhibition centre to replace the World Trade Centre exhibition halls.40

To reflect its new role as a coordinator and overall champion for tourism in Singapore, the STPB was renamed the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on 19 November 1997.41

From the 2000s
In 2003, Singapore tourism faced one of its biggest challenges with the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Asia. Fear of the disease caused visitor numbers to plummet, which adversely affected the tourism industry and Singapore’s economy. To address the situation, the STB rolled out three initiatives – “Cool Singapore Award”, “Step Out! Singapore” and “Singapore Roars” – to restore tourist confidence. “Cool Singapore Award” was a certification system to ensure best practices in SARS prevention by recognising tourist facilities and attractions that had taken stringent precautions against the disease. As part of the “Step Out! Singapore” campaign, the STB provided a S$2-million seed funding for promotional and advertising activities carried out by various attractions, and food and retail outlets. “Singapore Roars” was a six-month-long global campaign to draw visitors back to Singapore with sweeteners such as discounted travel deals.42


Although visitors returned in 2004, the STB felt that more could be done to maintain Singapore’s share of the tourism pie, especially in light of competition from other regional cities. In 2004, the board changed its destination branding from “New Asia – Singapore” to “Uniquely Singapore” to offer products and services that showcase Singapore’s uniqueness. This tagline was later changed to “YourSingapore” in 2010, along with the launch of an interactive website that facilitates customisation of tours and booking of flights and accommodation.43

In January 2005, then Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang unveiled the “Tourism 2015” plan, which set out the tourism sector’s vision and targets for 2015. The plan was supported by a $2-billion Tourism Development Fund.44

The STB also customises its campaigns for different markets, and these have been launched in China, Australia, India and the Philippines. In 2011, the board launched “New Discoveries” in China, which highlighted Singapore’s transformation and promoted lesser-known offerings to appeal to China’s increasingly sophisticated consumers. In February 2014, the “Singapore: See Where the World is Heading” campaign was launched for the Filipino market.45


In June 2013, the STB launched the S$5-million kickstart fund to support lifestyle events such as pop-up entertainment, dining, retail and artistic productions with strong tourism appeal.46

The STB celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014. Since its inception, the board has helped to increase tourist arrivals from 91,000 in 1964 to 15.6 million in 2013. In 2014, tourism contributed 4 percent to Singapore’s gross domestic product. The STB currently has 20 regional offices to help enhance Singapore’s market presence through marketing, media and other initiatives.47

Timeline
48
1 Jan 1964:
Singapore Tourist Promotion Board constituted.

1964: Tourist Promotion (Certification and Control of Guides) Regulations introduced.
1970: STPB’s first regional offices opened in London, San Francisco, Sydney and Tokyo.
Apr 1974: Singapore Convention Bureau established.
1977: “Surprising Singapore” tagline introduced.
1984:
Tourism task force formed to look into strengthening Singapore’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.

1986: Tourism Product Development Plan unveiled.
1994: Singapore Food Festival and The Great Singapore Sale launched.
1995: STPB headquarters relocated to Tourism Court; “New Asia – Singapore” tagline introduced.
1996:
“Tourism 21” masterplan launched.

1997: STPB renamed Singapore Tourism Board.
2004: “Uniquely Singapore” destination brand launched.
Jan 2005: “Tourism 2015” plan unveiled.49
2010: “YourSingapore” destination brand launched.
Jun 2013: Kickstart fund launched.
2014: STB celebrates its 50th anniversary.



Author
Stephanie Ho




References
1. Singapore Tourism Board. (2014). Tourism 50 1964–2014: A journey through 50 years & beyond: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2013/14. Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.stbannualreport.com.sg/

2. Singapore Tourism Board. (2014). Tourism 50 1964–2014: A journey through 50 years & beyond: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2013/14. Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.stbannualreport.com.sg/
3. Singapore can become the Honolulu of South-East Asia. (1963, July 30). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Finance ministry to handle tourism. (1963, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Govt backing for tourism. (1963, July 31). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1965). Annual report 1964. Singapore: The Author, p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.479104 STPB-[AR])
7. Fair deal for all tourists. (1963, December 27). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1965). Annual report 1964. Singapore: The author, p. 6. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.479104 STPB-[AR])
9. The centre to cater for all tourist’s needs. (1964, May 20). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. To creating a brighter image of Singapore: $750,000. (1964, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tourist draw. (1964, April 23). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Newsletter to tell of tourist attractions. (1964, July 9). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Lion with fish tail is tourist board’s new emblem. (1964, April 25). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Singapore Tourism Board (2014). Tourism 50 1964–2014: A journey through 50 years & beyond: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2013/14. Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.stbannualreport.com.sg/
15. Tourist dollars benefit the man-in-the-street. (1965, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 4; Tourist week begins. (1965, September 25). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Essay winners. (1965, September 24). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Tourist guides must register. (1964, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1971). Annual report 1970–71. Singapore: The author, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.479104 STPB-[AR])
19. Singapore Tourism Board. (2014). Tourism 50 1964–2014: A journey through 50 years & beyond: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2013/14.  Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.stbannualreport.com.sg/
20. Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1975). Annual report 1974–75. Singapore: The author. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.479104 STPB-[AR])
21. Success – a story of much thought, work. (1974, December 5). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Soh, T. K. (1965, September 26). Singapore tourism boost. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Tourist boom helped us tide over recession: Goh. (1978, August 20). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. The ten-year plan. (1981, March 7). The Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Hermana, Y., & Presilla, M. (2007). Tourism policy in Singapore: A journey to perfection. In Tourism, cultural identity, and globalization in Singapore. Jakarta: Research Centre for Regional Resources, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, p. 63. (Call no.: RSING 338.47915957 TOU)
26. Yeow, M. S. (1984, September 13). Task force to boost tourism. Singapore Monitor, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Singapore. Ministry of Trade and Industry. (1984). Report of the tourism task force. Singapore: Ministry of Trade and Industry, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 338.47915957 SIN)
28. Tourist task force proposes ‘dual personality’ for Singapore. (1984, November 24). The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Salma Khalik. (1985, September 28). Nine days to remember Singapore by. The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Tourism 50 1964–2014: A journey through 50 years & beyond: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2013/14. Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.stbannualreport.com.sg/
31. Dancing cooks and lots of fun at first S’pore food fest. (1994, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 17; Dhaliwal, R. (1994, April 3). $3m publicity drive to market the Great S’pore Sale. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Singapore Tourism Board. (2013). Singapore Food Festival. Retrieved from YourSingapore website: http://www.yoursingapore.com/content/traveller/en/browse/whats-on/festivals-and-events/singapore-food-festival.html; Singapore Retailers Association. (2014). The Great Singapore Sale. Retrieved from The Great Singapore Sale website: http://www.greatsingaporesale.com.sg/gss-2014/
33. Ministry of Trade and Industry and Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1986). Tourism product development plan.  Singapore: The Author. (Call no.: RSING 338.47915957 TOU)
34. Hoe, I. (1986, December 11). ‘Old’ Singapore as you’ve never seen it before. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Ministry of Trade and Industry and Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1986). Tourism product development plan.  Singapore: The author. (Call no.: RSING 338.47915957 TOU)
36. Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1995). Tourism unlimited, Singapore Tourist Promotion Board yearbook 1994–1995. Singapore: The Author, pp. 2–3. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.479104 STPB-[AR])
37. Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1996). Tourism 21: Vision of a tourism capital. Singapore: Pagesetters Services, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 338.47915957 SIN)
38. Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1996). Singapore New Asia. STPB yearbook 1995/96. Singapore: The Author, p. 34. (Call no.: RCLOS 338.479104 STPB-[AR])
39. Dhaliwal, R. (1996, January 5). STPB changes sales pitch after 11 years. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Dhaliwal, R. (1996, July 25). $600m plan to turn S’pore into tourism hub. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Singapore Tourist Promotion Board. (1996). Tourism 21: Vision of a tourism capital. Singapore: Pagesetters Services, p. 57. (Call no.: RSING 338.47915957 SIN): Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA). (1998). Singapore. Singapore: MITA, p. 315. (Call no.: 959.57 SIN-[LKY])
42. Singapore Tourism Board. (2014). Annual report 2013/14. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.stbannualreport.com.sg/; Loh, H. Y., & Lim, K. (2003, May 21). S’pore risks recession if region fails in Sars. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Chong, V. (2004, June 10). Uniquely Singapore brand finding its feet. The Business Times, p. 8; Lim, J. (2010, March 6). What’s unique about S’pore? It’s now yours. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Singapore Tourism Board. (2005). Unique moments in a unique year: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2004/2005. Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board, p. 12. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website:  https://www.stbtrc.com.sg/passport/X1stbar-0405-uniquemomentsinauniqueyear.pdf
45. Singapore Tourism Board. (2014). Tourism 50 1964–2014: A journey through 50 years & beyond: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2013/14.  Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.stbannualreport.com.sg/
46. Huang, L. (2013, September 27). Visual arts fest, design book fair get Kickstart boost. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Singapore Tourism Board. (2014). Tourism 50 1964–2014: A journey through 50 years & beyond: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2013/14. Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.stbannualreport.com.sg/
48. Dates taken from Singapore Tourism Board. (2014). Tourism 50 1964–2014: A journey through 50 years & beyond: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2013/14. Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.stbannualreport.com.sg/
49. Singapore Tourism Board. (2005). Unique moments in a unique year: Singapore Tourism Board annual report 2004/2005. Singapore: Singapore Tourism Board, p. 12. Retrieved from Singapore Tourism Board website: https://www.stbtrc.com.sg/passport/X1stbar-0405-uniquemomentsinauniqueyear.pdf



The information in this article is valid as at 5 February 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Administrative agencies--Singapore
Government agencies
Trade and industry
Commerce and Industry>>Industries
Tourism--Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Tourism and hospitality
Organisations>>Government Agencies