Difficult to surprise tourists and visitors in a mature destination such as Singapore. However, STB and tourism professionals work hard to present new niche tours in the City-State showing that Singapore can continue to generate curiositu among its travellers.
The Singapore Tourism Board organised last year a contest between May and October under the initiative ‘Tour Design Challenge’. It mainly emphasized food and nature themes but other aspects of Singapore life were highlighted as well. The Challenge has given way to the development of 16 new local tours to be launched this year, including several in Singapore heartland, which is rarely visited by tourists.
To encourage more guides to start sharing their passion with foreign visitors or locals, guides with strong knowledge in specific areas can apply to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to attain an Area Tourist Guide licence, which allows them to be practising tour guides in their areas of interest without having to obtain the full tourist guide certification.
Applicants must have their experience and skills assessed and, if necessary, complete training. Full-fledged tourist guides can also apply for the licence.
The new tours with specialised guides was officially launch on March 22 with Singapore Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat highlighting that the scheme aims to help showcase Singapore’s heritage, culture and way of life, in line with travellers’ growing interest in authentic local experiences.
The fact that many tours are now going into the heartland of Singapore will also help spreading tourism benefits to neighbourhood businesses, however with a strong emphasis on authenticity to avoid turning those districts into tourist traps. Locals expressed their fear to see tour buses and big groups spoiling neighbourhood with price increases in local shops.
Heartland tours run now three to four times a week, with small groups of between two and six people. Most of them are coming from the Western Hemisphere, particularly from Europe or the USA.
In another development, Singapore launched a new attraction putting again the highlight on districts outside the main tourist areas in the city centre. On Saturday, the National Parks Board inaugurated the 36km Coast-to-Coast Trail, which stretches from Jurong Lake Gardens in the west to Coney Island Park in the north-east. The trail links among others parks such as Bukit Batok Nature Park, Botanic Gardens and MacRitchie Reservoir Park. The initiative is part of a 60 km trail which will grow to a 150km Round Island Route connecting all parks by 2035.