Tourism in Singapore

1 Introduction

The Singapore Tourist Promotion Board was first established in 1964 with the mandate to promote Singapore as a tourist destination. We began work with a small staff strength of 25 and that year, we welcomed 91,000 visitors. The Merlion was created as a symbol as part of marketing campaigns. (Anon., 2013) Travel agent licensing and tourist guide training were established and through the 1960s and 70s, infrastructural development and tourist attractions such as Jurong BirdPark were actively encouraged. In the 1980s, the board implemented saving of our historic districts, such as Chinatown and the rejuvenation of the Singapore River.

All of which that have had happened, made Singapore where we are standing in the tourism sector today.

2 Environment Impacts

Any form of industrial development will bring impacts upon the physical environment. The quality of the environment, both natural and man-made, is essential to tourism. In Singapore, the tourism sector dominates the country’s economy. In the post-independence policy of economic and urban growth, Singapore has been radically transformed from a largely low-rise colonial trading position to a predominantly high-rise, modern post-industrial city-state.

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In the development process, while large areas of nature vegetation have been cleared, a network of greenery has been carefully introduced to improve the quality of the urban environment and transform Singapore into a garden city. However, tourism’s relationship with the environment is complex which involves many positive and negative environmental effects.

2.1 Positive Impacts

Tourism has the potential to create beneficial effects on the environment by contributing to environmental protection and conservation.

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It is a way to raise awareness of environmental values and it can serve as a tool to finance protection of natural areas and increase their economic importance. Every day, we are always rushing and rarely stop to “smell the roses”, as they say. The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve are both good places to enjoy the beauty of nature and to relax the body and mind. Improving the environment will increase tourism in Singapore and attract more tourists.

2.2 Negative Impacts

The negative impacts of tourism development can gradually deplete our environment’s natural resource. In Singapore, the construction of golf courses have negative impacts on the environment as it occupies valuable land resources and requires a lot of water to build. Constructing more golf courses will in time lead to a challenge as our underground water resources are extremely limited. ((UNEP), 2001 )

3 Economic Impacts
Tourism in Singapore is a major industry and contributor to Singapore’s economy. There were 13,171,303 tourists in 2011, which amounts to over twice of Singapore’s total population.

3.1 Positive Impacts

3.1.1 The direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP

The direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP in 2011 was SGD$16.7bn (5.0% of GDP) and is forecast to rise by 1.7% in 2012.This primarily reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services (excluding commuter services). But it also includes, for example, the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists. This in term makes a huge contribution to the government revenue (Scowsill, 2012)

3.1.2 Travel & Tourism’s contribution to employment

Tourism Industry generated 128,000 jobs directly in 2011 (4.1% of total employment) and this is forecast to grow by 7.0% in 2012 to 137,000 (4.4% of total employment). This includes employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services (excluding commuter services). It also includes, for example, the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists. By 2022, Travel & Tourism will account for 175,000 jobs directly, an increase of 2.5% pa over the next ten years.

3.2 Negative Impacts

There are many hidden costs to tourism, which can have unfavourable economic effects on the host community. Often rich countries are able to profit from tourism better than poorer countries. The least developed countries have the most urgent need for income, employment, and general rise of the standard of living by the means of tourism, yet they are the ones who are least able to realize these benefits. Among the reasons for this are large-scale transfer of tourism revenues out of the host country and exclusion of local businesses and products. When it comes to economics, no country in the world can survive on its own. Tourism directly influences Singapore’s economy. Successful tourism relies on establishing a basic infrastructure, such as roads, visitor centers and hotels. The cost of this usually falls on the government, so it has to come out of tax revenues. Jobs created by tourism are often seasonal and poorly paid, yet tourism can push up local property prices and the cost of goods and services. Money generated by tourism does not always benefit the local community, as some of it leaks out to huge international companies, such as hotel chains. Destinations dependent on tourism can be adversely affected by events such as terrorism, natural disasters and economic recession. The negative impacts of tourism can leads to inflation, leakage and economic dependence.

3.2.1 Inflation

Inflation can rise in the general level of prices or a fall in the purchasing power of money. Therefore, tourism can increase the value or price of land or building etc. that can directly influence tourism in Singapore.

3.2.2 Leakage

Leakage mostly comes from the high proportion of money spent by tourists who leave the country. Thus, leakage can be caused in 3 different ways:

1. Tourist purchase of goods and services that have been imported.

2. Hotels and other tourism related businesses and organization import goods / food as the local product are not available or not up to the required standards.

3. Profits are repatriated by foreign owners of hotels and other services. (Anon., n.d.)

3.2.3 Economic dependence
Countries that rely heavily on tourism industry can be dangerous; this can lead the tourism sector to changes overnight die to natural disasters, terrorism, change of consumer taste, and economic recession in the source of the country.

4 Social Culture Impacts

Singapore has a unique socio-cultural heritage where modern lifestyle is combined with traditional cultural values. In this section, we aim to analyse the socio-cultural impacts on the growth of Singapore tourism.

4.1 Positive Impacts

4.1.1 Tourism provides shared infrastructure

Local facilities and infrastructure (developed to sustain tourism) are often enhanced, which could lead to better standards of living for the local community. In the 1980s, several historic and culturally significant areas such as Chinatown , Little India and Kampong Glam were earmarked for preservation. The Singapore River underwent a major clean-up program and the areas along the river were developed for restaurants and other tourist amenities. (Scowsill, 2012) The government hopes to receive 17 million visitors per year by 2015 with major new developments, especially at Marina Bay and Sentosa. Some projects in progress intend to attract more tourists and improve tourism environment: Gardens by the Bay, Downtown MRT Line, Common Services Tunnel.

4.1.2 Tourism for socio-cultural awareness and peace

Travelling brings people in contact with each other, as tourism has an educational element, creates interest towards the local arts, traditional cultural activities, architectural traditions and so on. These help visitors to promote awareness of different cultures. In Singapore, the tolerance level is high and it is a norm for the locals because they are already living amongst different races with different cultural backgrounds. Singaporeans understand how to contact with visitors from different cultural backgrounds better than residents from other countries. The promotion of cultures instills cultural pride to both visitors and local people.

4.2 Negative Impacts

As tourism is considered a major contributor to the Singapore economy, locals believe that much of the old charm of these neighbourhoods has been lost due to redevelopments (Lew, 1992).

4.2.1 Modernization

Modernization has some effects among society which can either improve or destroy it. As examples Arab Street is less than a third of its original length, China town has lost many of its shop houses to modern sterile buildings. The Kampongs are gone, the old and good seafood at places such as Punggol were demolished as well. (PhilM, 2004) For a young man in 1972, Orchard Road’s hawker stalls sold a multitude of different dishes with a greater variety than what you find in hawker centres today. Today, if a tourist in Orchard Road is hungry for local food, he will have a harder time searching for real hawker food. The modern day tourist guide books enthuse about luxury shops such as Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton. Back in 1972, the guide books would direct you to bargains found in shop houses in Arab Street, China Town, Tengah Village and Changi Village.

4.2.2 Irritation due to tourist behaviour

Tourists often, out of ignorance or carelessness, fail to respect local customs and moral values. When they do, they can bring about irritation and stereotyping. Singaporeans always queue up consciously while waiting for food or going to the restroom. Travellers sometimes do not have the shared vigilance, and may jump the queue, leaving a bad impression for local people and create inconvenience. Slurping your soup and talking or laughing loudly in restaurants is considered bad manners locally, but it is a sign of appreciation in China. 5 Tourism Planning and Sustainable Tourism

With just around 700 square kilometres, Singapore is home to 5.13 million people today (Anon., 2013). Planning for sustainability is a must, not a choice. Over the past 40 years, the “Singapore Way” of sustainable development have allowed us to achieve both economic growth and a good living environment.

5.1 Safeguarding Land for Growth

Planning ahead ensures there is sufficient land to support economic growth. The reclaimed land at Marina Bay allows for seamless expansion of the city to cater to financial and business services, tourism and housing. Island-wide, land is also safeguarded for high value-added industries like pharmaceuticals, electronics, biomedical sciences and chemicals, and new growth sectors such as aerospace and medical travel. Land is also set aside for future expansion of the ports, airport and other large infrastructure.

5.2 Providing a Quality Living Environment

A wide variety of housing choices and types are provided to house Singapore’s growing population comfortably. Housing estates are planned as total living environments, with comprehensive amenities – libraries, sports facilities, schools, community centres, playgrounds and parks – to meet residents’ needs. More parks and green spaces are planned for recreation and to provide relief from the urban setting.

5.3 Maintaining Environmental Quality

Through URA’s comprehensive and integrated approach with the collaboration of many government agencies, a high-quality living environment can be enjoyed by all. Roads are lined with greenery. Stringent pollution controls are in place to protect water and air quality. Essential but pollutive infrastructure is located away from residential areas. Innovative initiatives like the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System also help to optimise land use while meeting infrastructure needs.

5.4 Integrating Transport with Land Use Planning

An integrated approach is adopted for land use and transportation planning. Besides planning for a balanced distribution of jobs and homes to reduce the need to commute, new development areas are also well-served by transportation. As Singapore is land-scarce, public transportation is the key emphasis as the more effective and efficient mode of transport. Singapore is well-served by public buses and an extensive rail network. The rail network will be further expanded by the nearly completed Circle Line and the new Downtown Lines 2 and 3. In the West Region, the East-West Line will be extended into Tuas to better serve the workers in this area. (Anon., n.d.)The road network will also be improved with the Marina Coastal Expressway and North-South Expressway. To provide greater convenience and accessibility, higher-density housing and commercial developments are planned around and integrated with rail transit. This helps to promote the use of public transportation.

5.5 Retaining Precious Built Heritage

By planning ahead and balancing land use needs, it is possible for land-scarce Singapore to meet developmental and economic objectives without sacrificing our built heritage. Over 6,800 buildings and structures have been conserved as a result of URA’s conservation efforts. Conservation now receives widespread public support and interest, and will become increasingly important for the retention of our identity as Singapore continues to develop.

6 Conclusion

In conclusion, tourism in Singapore has both positive and negative effects on the environment, economy and the social sector of the country. It has contributed to the environment by protecting and conserving the natural aspects of Singapore, improved the economy by increasing employment and government revenue, and creating socio-awareness and peace. Tourism has allowed Singapore to altogether achieve better visitor satisfaction, improve the economy, have greater sustainability, and enhanced integration between tourism and the community.

7 Bibliography

Anon., 2013. Singapore Tourism Board. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 1 May 2013].
Anon., 2013. Statistics Singapore – Latest Data. [Online]
Available at: [Accessed 11 May 2013].
Anon., n.d. Planning to sustainality. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed May 1 2013].
Lew, A. A., 1992. Perceptions of Tourists and Tour Guides in Singapore. In: Journal of Cultural Geography Vol.12 Issue 2. s.l.:s.n., pp. 45-52. PhilM, 2004. Singapore Identity. [Online]
Available at: [Accessed 1 May 2013].
Scowsill, D., 2012. Travel and Tourism Economic Impact 2012 Singapore, s.l.: s.n.

8 Appendix
Appendix A

Figure Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Appendix B

Figure Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Appendix C

Figure Sentosa Golf Club
Appendix D

Figure Tanah Merah Golf Club

Appendix E

Figure Constant 2011 SGDbn extracted from >
Appendix F

Figure Singapore: Direct contribution of travel and tourism to employment extracted from > Appendix G

Figure Clarke Quay, a historical riverside quay in Singapore

Cite this page

Tourism in Singapore. (2016, Mar 10). Retrieved from

Tourism in Singapore

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