How Singapore became a beacon for sustainable tourism
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How Singapore became a beacon for sustainable tourism

How Singapore became a beacon for sustainable tourism

Beverly Au Yong, area director for the Middle East at Singapore Tourism Board, explains how the city-state has become a benchmark for sustainable practices

The pandemic has shed light on the particular needs of the next generation of travellers in a Covid-19 environment. Among the many criteria that travellers are now seeking, sustainability is a top priority.

Keeping this in mind, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has developed a destination sustainability strategy and roadmap for the tourism sector in line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030, with a focus on environmental sustainability and sustainable management.

“As a responsible destination, Singapore is constantly incorporating our sustainability vision into our tourism offerings to achieve our vision of becoming a City in Nature,” said Beverly Au Yong, area director for the Middle East at STB.

The remarks were made by Au Yong along the sidelines of the SingapoReimagine Global Conversations that was held at the Terra Auditorium at Expo 2020 Dubai. The panel included luminaries such as Dr Barkathunnisha, co-founder of World Women Tourism and founder of Elevated Consultancy and training; Michael Magill, managing director of RSP Architects Planners and Engineers Middle East; Xavier Anglada, managing director of Energy GCAL, member of Accenture’s Global Leadership Council, and innovation lead in the Middle East.

Several examples of Singapore’s approach to sustainable tourism were highlighted over the course of the event. For example, the Singapore Hotel Association has set up a Hotels Sustainability Committee to drive industry-wide adoption of sustainability practices. Singapore hotels like JW Marriott South Beach and Parkroyal Collection Pickering have included sustainability considerations in the design and subsequent construction of the hotel infrastructure, whereas hotel partners like Grand Hyatt Singapore, Fairmont Singapore, and Swissotel the Stamford have minimised the environmental footprint of their hotel operations by ensuring efficient use of water, and reduction of waste and carbon emissions. Similarly, hotel partners like One Farrer Hotel and Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay are also incorporating elements of sustainability into hotel experiences by way of initiatives such as introducing farm-to-table dining experiences for guests and preserving the rich heritage of green foliage and existing greenery on site respectively. Furthermore, Singapore’s resort island, Sentosa aims to become a globally recognised, certified sustainable tourism destination and transform itself into a carbon-neutral destination by 2030.

“We are aware that the sustainability journey will be a two-way conversation between the Government and industry, and platforms like the Singapore Reimagine Global Conversations (SRI GC) series offers a stage for industry game-changers to discuss these emerging trends and issues, and to spark ideas to collectively shape the future of tourism,” added Au Yong.

There are several challenges that must be tackled along the way while paving the way for a shift towards sustainable tourism. Shifting business practices to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable can be expensive. Therefore, managing costs effectively during the transition will be key. Many small- and medium-sized enterprises and smaller attractions may not have the immediate financial appetite, even if it does pay off in the long term. But Au Yong counters that by saying, “Sustainability is the right thing for any business to do, but it also begins with a shift in mindset. Sustainability initiatives could mean more efficient processes, use of resources and lower costs in the long run. Businesses need to think about how sustainability makes business sense for them, and fits into their own business processes and models. For example, investments in sustainability solutions, such as food waste management or sustainable building management systems, will also benefit their bottom line in the long run through better resource management.

“Reducing the environmental impact of tourism is a continuous process. Our local tourism businesses and industry partners have already begun incorporating sustainable practices into their products and experiences, and we must forge ahead with supporting them in becoming more environmentally sustainable.”

The Singapore Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai aimed to achieve net-zero energy during the six-month event period via the use of solar panels, management of energy and desalination of saline groundwater. Titled “Nature. Nurture. Future.”, it presents a microcosm of Singapore’s transformed landscape to visitors and reflects the nation’s vision of becoming a City in Nature. The pavilion features a multi-layered, three-dimensional green space that showcases Singapore’s strengths and expertise, and highlight the country’s approach to liveability, sustainability and resilience through innovative urban solutions. “Expo 2020 is a global platform that has provided Singapore an opportunity to showcase its innovative urban solutions and culture. The visitors to the Singapore pavilion are offered many unique and immersive experiences into the countries vibrant and dynamic culture and its effort towards becoming a City in Nature. We are confident that the visitors to the Singapore pavilion come out feeling mesmerised having witnessed an amalgamation of design, technology and culture,” concluded Au Yong.

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