Tourism has become one of the most important global industries today. To maintain global power, Singapore has to get involve and give value to tourism in the country. Singapore can be considered a small country if you determine it from the amount of land the country has, but if you measure from its economy, it is one of the most growing counties in the world. This statement is pointed out by Hooi Hooi Leana, Sio Hing Chongb and Chee-Wooi Hooyc (2014) who say that ;
“ Tourism is a fast-growing industry in Singapore. Despite the small contribution to the country’s overall GDP, hovering around 8 percent, Singapore’s tourism industry lingers as a noteworthy showcase not only for trade and economic powerhouse but also as a hub for entertainment, media, and culture in Southeast Asia. In 2005, the Singapore Tourism Board heralded its target to ensure tourism played the role as a key economic pillar by tripling tourism receipts to S$30 billion and doubling visitor arrivals to 17 million in 2015. Besides, the “Uniquely Singapore” campaign that launched in March 2004, aimed to show the world the blend of the best of Singapore as the modern world of warm, enriching and unforgettable tourist destination had won a gold award conferred by the Pacific Asia Travel Association. In 2009, the contribution of the tourism industry on economic growth has recorded 7.3 percent and created 5.8 percent out of total employment opportunities. An increasing trend showing 4.1 percent of the total economy from the tourism industry in 2004 has escalated to 7.3 percent in 2009.”
From this fact, we can understand how tourism has had an impact on Singapore. But to understand the current impacts of tourism in Singapore, we must acknowledge what types of tourist attractions Singapore has to offer and the effects that tourism has on Singapore’s structure.
The types of tourist attractions in Singapore
Singapore can be considered one of the most outstanding counties in southeast Asia, this fact is a benefit for Singapore when it comes to tourism because Singapore’s name in more likely to pop up if you are planning a trip to this region. By recognizing this advantage, Singapore has created many noticeable tourist attractions throughout the years. Since there are so many tourist attractions in Singapore, the writer is going to narrow them down into two main categories which are nature-based tourist attractions and human-made tourist attractions. The writer plans on giving at least three destinations as examples.
Nature-based tourist attractions are tourist destinations which are more interested in the nature side of the attraction. Nature-based tourist attractions are usually combined by three elements, namely education, recreation and adventure (UK essays, 2017). Since these type of tourist attractions have little to no interventions from humans, it is the perfect type of destination for people who enjoy the natural side of life. Even though Singapore has become a very developed country, but there are still many nature-based tourist attractions around, for example, Gardens by the Bay, Botanic gardens and Sentosa island.
The first natural tourist attraction which the writer is going to mention is Gardens by the bay, a national garden and premier attraction for local and international visitors. The garden is an advanced facility which uniquely displays the plant kingdom by entertaining and educating the visitors at the same time. The garden also maintains various types of plants from all over the world. The garden can also be considered an independent organization responsible for developing and managing one of Asia’s foremost garden destinations (Gardens by the bay, n.d.). Coming to Gardens by the Bay is like being at almost every garden is the world because of the variety of plants the garden has to offer.
Another memorable nature-based tourist attraction is Botanic gardens, a collection of different types of gardens, like the Ethnobotany garden, the National orchid garden, and the Ginger garden. The gardens have played an important role in fostering agricultural development in Singapore and the region through collecting, growing, experimenting and distributing potentially useful plants. The gardens also played a key role in Singapore’s Garden City program through the continual introduction of plants of horticultural and botanical interest(Singapore botanic gardens, n.d.). Seeing all of these wonderful gardens in person can be a very relaxing experience for many people and that might be why the gardens are still famous today.
Moving on is Sentosa Island, an offshore island of Singapore accessible by a road link, cable car, and a light railway line. The island is not far from the city center (about a ten-minute drive). There have been many improvements to the island thru out the years to make sure that the island becomes a world-class tourist destination, which creates opportunities for tourists and locals. The increasing of transportation options and attractions such as a Marine Life Park and the Universal Studios Singapore amusement park have helped Sentosa island become a very popular tourist destination at an international level. But despite all of the famous human-made tourist destinations, Sentosa island has a lot of natural activities which makes the visitor want to come back for more, like Siloso beach which is perfect for a nice day on the beach. (Centre for liveable cities Singapore, 2015)
The next type of tourist attractions is human-made tourist attractions, which is any object or place that a person might travel to see which exists mainly because a human created it (BBC, n.d.), for example, Orchard Road, Singapore Flyer, Universal Studios Singapore and Chinatown.
Starting with Orchard road, one of the largest shopping, dining, and entertainment hubs in the country. Orchard Road is a 2.2 km. shopping belt between Tanglin road and Selegie road. Tourist considers Orchard road as a shopping district and prefers it to regional malls even if it may not be as close to their lodgings (Yap Yong Hwang, 2014). From becoming a popular icon for shopping in Singapore, Orchard Road has become a must-go destination for tourist in Singapore. The popularity has also helped Singapore’s economic growth.
Following up is the Singapore Flyer, which is the largest Ferris wheel in Asia. Singapore flyer can take you up to about 165 meters from ground level, which is about the hight of the 42nd floor of a skyscraper. But it is not just the hight that attracts tourist, the greatest part of Singapore flyer is the amazing view that allows you to see most of Singapore in a way you have never experienced before (Singapore tourism board, n.d.).
When mentioning about Singapore, a popular tourist attraction that comes up to mind is Universal Studios Singapore, a well-known amusement park. The park is located on Sentosa island, which is not far from the city center. This is the only Universal Studios in Southeast Asia where 28 thrilling rides and seven themed zones await (Sentosa, n.d.). The size of the park and amount of character that Universal Studios Singapore possesses easily makes it a tourist attraction that most people would want to come to at any age or gender.
The next well-known human-made tourist attraction in Chinatown, which is a must-go destination for people who visit Singapore because of its long old history and the impacts it has had on Singapore’s culture. This statement can be supported by Planning for Tourism: Creating a Vibrant Singapore (2015) which claims that ;
“In the early 1980s, Chinatown was Singapore’s top tourist attraction. An important heritage area, it was classified as a “Historic District” in the 1986 Urban Conservation Master Plan, and an “Ethnic Quarter” in the “Ethnic Singapore” thematic zone within the Tourism 21 Master Plan. It was hence a natural candidate for the pilot project on thematic development.”
The effects of tourism on Singapore’s structure
By getting an idea about what kind of tourist attractions Singapore has to offer from the previous section, the question remains that how do these tourist attractions affect Singapore’s structure? Many might argue that tourism is only a temporary income that is unpredictable, but tourism is not only about the money, it also has many aspects to offer besides money which we are going to explore in this section.
Since Singapore is a country that strongly depends on its economic structure, Singapore has made sure that they can make the best out of what they have. Many might argue that tourism has only a small part on Singapore’s economy and Singapore can easily depend on making money from music, films, concerts, fashion, computer games, architectural services, and other creative products. But the truth remains that Singapore has to strongly depend more on labor, services, and brainpower because of its lack of natural resources. So tourism is a great way to boost the economies growth because it can attribute to the provision of hard currency, creates employment opportunities and accumulates physical capital (Chew Ging Lee, 2008). The potential benefits that tourism has to offer for Singapore’s economic structure have made the government realize how important it is and got the government move involved with tourism many years ago, as reported in Tourism and economic growth: The case of Singapore (2008) that ;
“In Singapore, tourism industry receives heavy supports from its government. The Singaporean government has launched the “Uniquely Singapore” marketing campaign through Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in March 2004 in Singapore. Subsequently, this campaign was launched in the various key markets, such as in Germany in the ITB trade show on 12 March 2004. Recognizing the importance of tourism to economic activities, on 11 January 2005, Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore unveiled the STB’s bold targets of tripling tourism receipts to S$30 billion and doubling visitor arrivals to 17 million in the year 2015. This initiative will be supported by an S$2 billion Tourism Development Fund.”
On the other hand, an uncontrolled growing economy can backfire if not handled properly. There are many possible outcomes from a growing economy that gets out of hand, such as, the increasing price of food, land, and houses which would make it very difficult for the locals to remain living where they grew up. And also depending too much on tourism as a main income might shake the economic structure when tourism is not a reliable source (UK essays, 2018).
Moving on is socio-cultural impacts that tourism has on Singapore. From the amount of tourist who comes to Singapore each year, the impacts that they have on Singapore’s society and culture are increasing by the years. By these increasements, there have been positive and negative impacts on Singapore’s socio-cultural structure due to tourism in the country.
On the positive side of socio-cultural impacts, tourism has allowed the citizens of Singapore to interact with people from all over the world. These opportunities are the gateway for exchanging ideas, knowledge, and experiences. As a result, many elements from foreign countries have combined into Singapore’s society and enhances the skills of the residents to communicate to different types of tourist and how to handle situations relating to self-expression (UK essays, 2018). Besides, tourism has encouraged Singaporeans to travel at cultural destinations in their country, for example, Chinatown. This encouragement helps Singaporeans value and understand more about their cultural history.
With the positives of the socio-cultural impacts being so significant, the downsides to Singapore’s socio-cultural is also crucial. Since there are so many tourists coming into the country each year, it becomes hard to keep in check with what everybody is doing, which can easily lead to many problems in the society like drugs and illegal activities. Another downside which comes from tourism is the fact that locals start to adapt foreign influences and westernization, which slowly changes the locals from their traditional ways and replace it with a more foreign way of life (UK essays, 2018).
Many studies have shown that tourism has increased socio-economic growth. However, tourism steered economic growth and development is achieved at the cost of environmental pollution and degradation (Muhammad Azam, Md Mahmudul Alam & Muhammad Haroon Hafeez, 2018). It can be argued that Singapore has created a few tourist attractions dedicated to improving the environment, for example, Gardens by the bay which provides a ton polluted environmental atmosphere and the NEWater plant which is one of the world’s largest water recycling facilities. These type of tourist attractions have helped promote environmental awareness, but the downsides that tourism has brought to Singapore’s environment is too critical. The limited amount of space and resources in Singapore can not handle the incoming of tourist that are coming into the country. As a result, Singapore’s environment is getting affected in many negative ways because of the limited resources to deal with environmental problems. The most noticeable negative effects on the environment are pollution from more vehicle demands, litters dropped by visitors, disturbance of natural habitats and cause damages to the landscapes, land cleared for more attractions and heavy usage of resources (UK essays, 2018).
Tourism has had a major impact on Singapore. Since tourism is now one of the most important global industries today, Singapore has also got on board with what tourism has to offer. Although Singapore might be a small-sized country, in terms of development Singapore is one of the highest growing counties in the world and tourism has played a key part in this success. By recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of the country, Singapore has been able to create many well-known nature-based and human-made tourist attractions, like Gardens by the Bay, Botanic gardens, Orchard Road and Singapore flyer. These extraordinary tourist attractions are the staples of Singapore’s entire tourism industry. By heavily depending on tourism as the main income, there have been many effects on Singapore’s structure. Government support has helped make a positive outcome on Singapore’s economic system and has lead to the provision of hard currency, creates employment opportunities and accumulates physical capital, but tourism might shake the economic structure when it is not a reliable source. On the socio-cultural approach, the benefits are that tourism is a gateway for exchanging ideas, knowledge, experiences and an opportunity to see value in Singapore’s culture, but the downsides are that tourism can easily lead to many problems in the society like illegal activities. Last but not least, Singapore’s environment is becoming more polluted due to the number of resources that need to be used in tourism, even though Singapore is trying as best as it can to improve and promote environmental awareness.
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This article was written by Dallas Kennamer, an undergraduate student of Psychology Department, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat University, while working as an intern at Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).
Photo by Nemanja .O. on Unsplash