Singapore doubles down on tourism with increased investment in human capital, gearing up for an even brighter future

Recognising that human capital is a crucial component of a successful tourism industry, Singapore has intensified its investments in capability development, with a compressed training and certification course for tourist guides to launch soon, a new leadership development programme to come later this year, and the creation of a training initiative focusing on sustainability, service experience excellence, and technology.

These programmes were announced at the Singapore Tourism Board-led Tourism Industry Conference on May 10.

STB Ong Huey Hong 640STB’s Ong said Singapore’s new capability development programmes will cater to professionals
across the leadership and operations segments of the industry

Addressing the audience in her opening speech, Singapore’s minister for sustainability and the environment and minister-in-charge of trade relations, Grace Fu, said “building our people” is a critical ingredient in Singapore tourism industry’s competitiveness.

Fu highlighted the Tourism Leadership Programme (TLP), set to launch in 4Q2024, as the way to equip industry leaders “with the necessary skillsets to navigate the present and the future”.

A programme under TLP is the Tourism Leadership Excellence & Advancement Programme (T-LEAP), which is designed for C-suite, high potential leaders, and business owners. Courses on technology and sustainability will take centre stage, and STB will work with training providers to build content.

T-LEAP will be piloted with Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), where it will be offered to tourism companies on Sentosa, before being expanded to other industry partners.

STB Planning & Policy Group’s assistant chief executive and chief sustainability officer, Ong Heuy Hong told TTG Asia in an interview that the pilot duration would “depend on demand”.

“We hope to have one or two runs with SDC, with minimally 20 participants for each run. We will see how the take-up is before deciding whether to scale up the number of runs,” Ong said.

During the pilot, STB and training providers will monitor the practicality of the curriculum and benefits arising from new skills acquired through the courses.

While there is a cost for participation, STB will “work with training providers to provide ongoing support to make sure (courses are) affordable to companies”.

Graduates of T-LEAP will be inducted into the Tourism Leaders Network, a platform to encourage cross-collaboration and knowledge sharing.

While TLP and T-LEAP target industry professionals at the top, another capability development programme will ensure the “important majority of operational people” are not neglected.

Ong said: “For this, we are partnering with the National Trade Union Congress LearningHub (NTUC LHUB) for three years to to co-develop and offer courses in key emerging areas such as sustainability, service experience excellence, and technology. These areas of focus were determined by the key outcomes of NTUC LHUB’s recent Industry Insights Report 2024 on Tourism.”

Courses will feature implementation-led training, which provides students with the opportunity to apply what they have learnt on real projects.

In an earlier interview with TTG Asia, Tay Ee Learn, chief sector skills officer at NTUC LHUB, emphasised that successful training adopts the 70-20-10 model, where 10 per cent of one’s learning comes from classroom-based training; 20 per cent of retention is through group sharing and experiential learning; and 70 per cent is from on-the-job training, subject to the culture and leadership of the line manager.

An implementation-led training method is, therefore, crucial for skills retention among students.

SDC will again be the pilot partner for STB’s training initiative with NTUC LHUB, as the wide range of businesses island partners are in will allow the courses to be tested out on a “good spread of tourism stakeholders”.

The third new capability development initiative to come is aimed at tourist guides and travel agents. In 2H2024, STB will roll out a more compact licensing course for aspiring tourist guides, in partnership with three approved training organisations – Tourism Management Institute of Singapore (TMIS), Singapore Chinese Chamber Institute of Business, and William Angliss Institute.

This streamlined approach to tourist guide licensing was a result of industry engagement, which alerted STB to hurdles discouraging keen individuals from taking up the profession.

“We want people from all walks of life and diverse background to join this profession, (but) people are telling us that 220 hours of training is very long. At the same time, people also want to know how the advent of technology is impacting this profession,” Ong recalled.

The solution was to revise the licensing course to a minimum of 120 hours, with the option for aspiring tourist guides to pad up their training with additional and relevant courses.

“While we are reducing the course hours, we are not compromising on quality. The course will cover minimal skillsets that are critical – ability to do storytelling, research skills, and decision-making agility,” she added.

Elaborating on the importance of having research skills, Ong said travellers no longer need tourist guides to lay out facts about a place, as these can easily be found on the Internet. Instead, tourist guides should be able and willing to “do their own research” and write a more interesting guiding narrative.

The ability to think on their feet is also valuable to tourist guides, she added, as they must know when is the right time to strike a “wow moment with their customers”.

According to Ong, each approved training organisation would offer its own supplement courses. Tourist guides could potentially sign up for additional courses on building personal branding and social media marketing.

TMIS spokesperson, Teo Puay Kim, director programmes and business operations, told TTG Asia that the additional courses are classified in two key areas: skill-based programmes such as digital marketing, self-branding, etc; and knowledge-based programmes such as nature, architecture, etc.

Teo said: “In the medium term, we are looking to provide professional development programmes on specific topics that can strengthen the depth of knowledge of the tourist guide, so that he/she can provide more specialised tours in return for better guiding fees.”

Additionally, tourist guides in Singapore can also take up the Professional Tour Leading programme, which will earn them an ability to conduct outbound tours. This skillset will boost their remuneration opportunities.

The revised approach to tourist guide qualification and support will also include compulsory networking opportunities that the three approved training organisations must conduct for their graduates and tour companies, according to Ong.

“We want to ensure business matching, so that whatever they have learnt can be brought to life in the real setting,” she explained.

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