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Transforming tourism: A seamless digital journey with Singapore Tourism Board

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore • 5 min read
Transforming tourism: A seamless digital journey with Singapore Tourism Board
At M Social, the F&B robots can carry about three times more than a regular server, significantly cutting down on time spent by service staff shuttling between the kitchen and restaurant. Photo: Millennium Hotels and Resorts
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In recent years, the term ‘digitalisation’ has transcended its status as a mere buzzword and has become an indispensable business practice in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. Big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are reshaping industries, and no one is spared, including the tourism sector.

Companies that embrace these technological advancements are finding themselves at a distinct advantage. They enjoy enhanced productivity through automation, improved decision-making with data analytics, personalised customer experiences, and more. The move towards digitalisation is becoming imperative for businesses seeking sustainable growth.

In 2021, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) launched the Tourism Technology Transformation Cube, or Tcube, a one-stop resource to help tourism businesses accelerate their digital transformation efforts.

Through a structured three-step Learn-Test-Build framework, businesses can better understand what they need to thrive in today’s tech-focused world and, more importantly, how to get there.

Cultivating a culture of innovation

In the Learn pillar, tourism businesses discover their transformation readiness and learn about innovation best practices. Following that, the Test pillar allows businesses to co-create and test new ideas through the Singapore Tourism Accelerator programme, which has been established as a source for some of the most innovative technology solutions.

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Through this programme, tourism companies can partner with start-ups to pilot innovative solutions that address business challenges. STB provides financial support to subsidise pilot costs, reducing the risks that innovation bears for tourism businesses. Finally, in the Build pillar, tourism businesses can tap into STB’s ready-built smart services to scale up data analytics and digital adoption.

While these advances are already shaping the travel sector, there is much more to come as more use cases emerge while the technology further matures — Wong Ming Fai, Singapore Tourism Board’s chief technology officer

Millennium Hotels and Resorts (MHR), which operates renowned hotels such as M Social Singapore and Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel Singapore, is the epitome of an organisation that has reaped the benefits of taking the first step to leveraging digitalisation support from the STB’s Tcube suite of initiatives.

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“Apart from a manpower shortage, we also grapple with escalating operating and energy costs. As such, we saw the need to turn towards digitalisation and automation to mitigate these business challenges,” says Andy Tan, MHR’s Senior Vice President of Global Ops and Partnerships Innovation.

MHR attended the Singapore Tourism Accelerator programme in 2019 and successfully adopted numerous game-changing solutions such as F&B robots to streamline daily operations and tackle manpower constraints, a smart task allocation solution for faster response time and privacy-friendly acoustic sensors to increase their employees’ efficiency, and smart recirculation units (RCU) and energy-saving temperature-controlled devices to optimise energy usage.

“A major game-changer that we implemented through the accelerator is our F&B robots, which have helped us greatly in our daily operations, curbing the manpower constraint we face. The walk from the kitchen to the restaurant is about 20 to 30 metres at M Social. Our servers can only carry two large plates simultaneously, whereas the F&B robot can carry about three times more. The robots have minimised the time our service staff need to walk to and fro the kitchen and reduced their fatigue levels, contributing to overall higher employee efficiency,” Tan adds.

Through the Singapore Tourism Accelerator, MHR explored a voice AI assistant that can act as an in-room concierge. The solution’s voice automation function, available in several languages and offers machine learning simultaneously, allows guests to conveniently reach housekeeping for their in-room requests, which helps reduce the hotel’s operating costs.

Importance for businesses to be well-equipped to navigate the digital horizon

Wong Ming Fai, STB’s chief technology officer, sees integrating technology into operations as crucial to bolster the ongoing recovery of the tourism sector in 2024. “This approach enhances customers’ experiences and increases operational efficiency in meeting their needs, ultimately driving revenue growth,” he says.

As businesses strive to capture opportunities amidst the uncertain travel market, one thing is clear: Technology is becoming increasingly integral to the tourism sector. Looking ahead, what comes next?

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“Naturally, many of us are looking towards technology for more opportunities. In 2023, we saw the generative AI (GenAI) boom and further growth of emerging technologies like extended reality (XR) and 5G,” says Wong, adding that AI is already an integral part of several business processes.

Wong: This approach enhances customers’ experiences and increases operational efficiency in meeting theirneeds, ultimately driving revenue growth

GenAI technologies are revolutionising the travel sector by automating tasks, personalising customer experiences and providing predictive analytics. This sets new standards for efficiency and customer satisfaction. “While these advances are already shaping the travel sector, there is much more to come as more use cases emerge while the technology further matures,” Wong explains, emphasising that Tcube is designed to be easily accessible to all businesses.

Industry trends indicate technology’s enduring significance in shaping tourism’s future, with initiatives like Tcube leading the charge by providing guidance and partnering with businesses on their digital transformation journeys.

Navigating the digital landscape in tourism offers both challenges and opportunities. With Tcube, businesses can easily partner with STB to harness technology, transforming obstacles into avenues for growth and innovation.

Businesses can take their first step here to benefit from Tcube’s suite of initiatives and stay updated on available resources and events.

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