PM Lawrence Wong at the Singapore Tourism Awards 2024

PM Lawrence Wong | 28 June 2024

Speech by Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the Singapore Tourism Awards on 28 June 2024.


Chairman and Chief Executive of the Singapore Tourism Board
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am happy to join you tonight for this year’s Tourism Awards, and importantly to mark STB’s 60th anniversary – which means 60 years of tourism promotion and development in Singapore.

Changes in the Tourism Landscape

Much has changed in these last 60 years. Back in 1964, we only had several tens of thousands of tourists. If we compared with today, we had rather simple attractions then – the Bird Park in 1971 and the Zoo later in 1973. And then we have Sentosa later. Today we have world-class attractions, and we welcome well over ten million visitors from all over the world.

These changes did not happen by chance; took years and decades of hard work. We invested in key infrastructure like Changi Airport. We revamped and improved our attractions – the Zoo and Bird Park are now part of a cluster of nature-themed attractions in Mandai. We strengthened our art and cultural offerings through the Esplanade, our museums. We brought in world-class amenities and facilities, including the Integrated Resorts. We curated a more vibrant calendar of lifestyle events throughout the year. Importantly, we worked together to make sure that the entire visitors experience is a good one – from smooth immigration clearance at the airport to having clean, green, and safe streets where visitors can enjoy themselves.

Recognising Pioneers and Service Professionals

This remarkable transformation over the last 60 years couldn’t have happened without the dedication of all of you. Our STB officers past and present, I think several veteran STB officers are here, past Chairmen, board members and CEOS as well as our partners in the tourism industry. Your efforts continue to help make Singapore an attractive, must-see destination. As the emcce said just now, in the past, when you tell people where you are from, you get a blank look at most people faces. They really do not know where Singapore is. This is in the 1980s and 1990s. Nowadays, it is very different. People know where Singapore is, our brand name, our reputation is up there and all our achievements have been made possible because of your contributions and hard work. So tonight I would like to thank all of you for your contributions and hard work. Thank you very much.

Tonight, we honour one of the tourism sector’s pioneers, Mrs Pamelia Lee. She joined STB’s predecessor – the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board – in 1978. She was one of the first to recognise the value in promoting Singapore’s culture and heritage as our unique selling points. She advocated for the preservation of historic districts like Chinatown and Little India; conservation of heritage buildings like CHIJMES and Raffles Hotel; and even played a role in bringing back the traditional bumboats along the Singapore River! Her leadership and vision played a key role in shaping Singapore’s tourism sector. So I am sure you will agree with me that she is a well-deserved recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Congratulations. We are also recognising a number of leaders in the tourism industry. We have an outstanding tourism entrepreneur Mr Ron Tan, Lynette Tan who is doing events, and we have Mr Goh Choon Phong, Mr Yam Kum Weng, Mr Damian D’Silva, Mr Kung Teong Wah, they are all getting the recognition awards. Congratulations to all of you.

We also honour 24 service professionals for going the extra mile for their customers. They all serve at the frontline, working in different roles, from tourist guides to café managers. All of them had done their part to provide exceptional care and concern for visitors. One of them, Pugunes Visvanathan, was previously an Assistant Teacher in a special needs school. She decided to make career switch and joined the retail industry, and eventually found her way to Sentosa as a Senior Ticketing Host. While her career path has changed, she retains her sense of care and empathy. One time, she met a boy who was lost. He was scared and crying. From her past experience, she could tell that he was a boy with special needs. So she paid extra attention to comfort him, gave him a hug, and eventually reunited him with his mother. There are many other such heartwarming stories of individuals who have gone above and beyond, to deliver exceptional experiences to our visitors in Singapore. Thank you all for your contributions to our tourism industry!

Enhancing our Tourism Experience

We have come a long way in developing tourism in Singapore. But we cannot be complacent. Other countries are stepping up their game. Travellers these days have many options.

It’s not easy for Singapore to compete. In our immediate region alone, there are so many interesting places to visit. If you want nice beaches, there are many options to explore, in Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. If you are interested in history, there are also many well- known heritage places to visit around the region. So, what can we do in Singapore? How do we compete?

First, we should build on our strengths. We can’t be all things to all people. We should focus on our Singapore Story – how people from diverse backgrounds have come together as one, and how we have worked together to transform this place from mudflats to metropolis. Interestingly, I found out that one of the most popular tourist destinations is at URA – the Singapore City Gallery. URA didn’t set up the Gallery for tourism purposes. But the fact that it is such a tourist draw shows there is interest in how we have developed as a nation. We should develop better ways to tell our Singapore Story. This is not about hardware and infrastructure. It is about better storytelling. How can we do that through our museums, our arts and cultural performances – so that visitors can experience Singapore in an appealing and authentic way.

Another strength is our position as a business hub. We attract many business travellers. We are amongst the most popular destinations in the world for business meetings and for MICE events. We should build on this and do more to encourage business travellers to come, and then to stay on and do some sightseeing after their work is done – visit our attractions or enjoy dining experiences across our wide range of F&B options, from Michelin-starred restaurants to hawker centres.

Our connectivity is yet another key asset. Visitors who travel from afar to our region will want to visit more than just one country. So Singapore can be a launchpad from which they can do short visits to other countries, either by plane, or even by taking a cruise from our cruise centre.

Second, we can develop more imaginative projects. We have a few new attractions in the pipeline – new entertainment arena at Marina Bay, new attractions at Mandai nature reserve etc. We are looking at major sports events. We are bringing more concerts and festivals. Key is to be able to synergise and pull it all together. That was what made our F1 so successful. It was not just a car race, but an entire weekend with many supporting activities around it – international conferences, concerts etc. We should adapt this same approach in staging other new events, so that they are not just done in isolation, but are curated as part of a vibrant year-round calendar of unforgettable experiences in Singpaore. That means STB cannot just operate on its own. It has to work closely with other government agencies as well as industry partners to maximise our overall efforts.

Finally, tourism, at its core, is a people business. All the best attractions, hotels and events will count for nothing without the human touch – in imagination, service and connection. We will continue to invest in our people to maintain our competitive advantage. MTI and STB have plans to better equip our tour guides, and also to nurture leaders in the tourism sector. They will share more about this in due course.

At the end of the day, the most important attraction is all of us.

We – Singaporeans – are all ambassadors of Singapore and we should strive to extend our warmth and hospitality to all our visitors. We should do our part to preserve Singapore’s unique culture and heritage and build a home that we can be proud of, both for ourselves and to showcase to the world.


Singapore has succeeded beyond all expectations. But we always be a little red dot – with no hinterland, and no natural resources. That means we have to constantly reinvent ourselves and find new ways to add value to the world and make a living for ourselves.

Tonight, as we celebrate the 60 years of tourism development, as we celebrate the achievements of our partners in the tourism industry, I hope we can inspire one another to keep on striving to do better and to bring Singapore tourism to even greater heights.

Thank you very much.