As a seasoned practitioner in the hospitality trade, I must say that tourism planning in Singapore has undergone exponential changes over the last two decades. This metamorphosing city and country is many things to many people who visit our shores.  The richness and diversity of this little known island in the heart of Asia can be enjoyable in so many ways. 

Singapore’s reputation for constantly raising the bar in tourism is undisputed. The fact that industry players here are able to rally to the call to promote Singapore as a top destination for tourists speaks volumes of our dedication to be exceptional even among our neighbouring giants.  We are constantly reinventing ourselves and shaping the country’s image as a unique destination with many memorable events and activities.  

More recently, there has been added impetus in positioning Singapore on the international areana with the hosting of the Singapore Airshow, Formula 1 and Grand Prix races, the Youth Olympics Games 2010, Food and Hotel Asia 2010, Boat Asia 2010, the World Gourmet Summit and many notable others.  I was privileged to be invited to a few key international events just last month. Soaking in the atmosphere at the Boat Asia 2010, Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) 2010 and the World Gourmet Summit (WGS) 2010, to name a few, what really impressed me was the country’s efforts at establishing Singapore as a MICE destination of choice.

   

Imagine a small country with only an estimated 180,000 employed in the hospitality and tourism sector, pulling off the hosting of the Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) 2010 which attracted some 52,000 food aficionados, is by no means a minor feat.  A record 42 percent overseas attendees compared with 37 percent last year.  The large fair debuted in 1978 and since then, has grown in scale in tandem with the strong growth in the food and hospitality industries in Asia Pacific. 

 On the first day of the exhibition, I witnessed a few teams representing Taylor College School of Tourism and Hospitality from Malaysia, SHATEC from Singapore and National Kaohsiung Hospitality College from Taiwan, showcasing their food and beverage skills. The atmosphere was surprisingly quiet as the top-tier restaurants and their teams took extreme care of their individual table of two to three guests in a truly professional manner.  It must have been a nerve-wracking experience for the teams but none of the nervous tension showed and the luncheon guests appeared comfortable and relaxed.  Ahhh……..the future of Singapore hospitality is in good hands.  

Scooting off to the next mega event, I was at the World Gourmet Summit (WGS) 2010, which took place from 11 to 25 April 2010.  Following its inception in 1997, WGS has become a world-acclaimed celebration of gastronomic finesse.  The highly anticipated event would almost always feature well-known chefs and celebrity chefs from around the world.  For most of the dinner settings, the master chefs showcased their culinary prowess as well as the versatility of ingredients used to seduce our palates and the pairing of magnificent wines. Yes, this is fine hospitality at its best! 

Looking ahead, Singapore will continue to attract and host many international events locally.  If I know my country well enough, they can be quite unstoppable once they commit to a strategic idea.  However, to sustain such growth and initiatives, Singapore will face a number of challenges, one of which will be the big surge for manpower to service this industry.  We will require a well-educated and skilled workforce to support these developments.  Key education institutions like the Management Development Institute of Singapore’s (MDIS) School of Tourism and Hospitality has developed many holistic programmes and courses relating to travel, tourism and hospitality to prepare for this growth. 

International students from China, India, Central Asia and even as far as the USA and France make up some 35 percent of our student cohort at MDIS, and the School of Tourism and Hospitality is one of the more popular hospitality and tourism schools in Singapore.  Recently, MDIS was voted one of the Best for Hospitality and Tourism Studies by the Edupoll 2008/ 09 Institutional Citations for independent education institutions. Collaborating with the Southern Cross University (SCU) in Australia, the SCU’s Bachelors degree in convention and event management is the first of its kind in Singapore.  

In addition to meeting these challenges, many companies in Singapore are making the effort to recruit and re-train their employees. They are also investing more time in both training and developing their employees to meet the demands of the jobs. For years now, MDIS, has also been offering and tailoring short programs and courses for the tourism and hospitality sectors.  I must say with the opening of two big brand name integrated resorts, the Marina Bay Sands and the Resorts World Sentosa that are touted to triple tourism revenue to SGD30 billion and create 100,000 direct and indirect jobs in Singapore, it looks like exciting times are ahead for the hospitality and tourism sector on this little island.

Kelvin Yeo
Director, School of Tourism and Hospitality
Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS)
kelvin_yeocw@mdis.edu.sg