Singapore is undoubted one of the world's most popular visitor destinations. It is the 5th most visited city by international tourist arrivals based on statistics and rankings by the World Tourism Organization. In October 2012, Singapore bagged Asia's top city attraction and the best meetings and conference destination at the World Travel Awards. This is thanks in part to the efforts of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), who champions tourism as a key economic driver for the country and positions it as a must-visit destination, offering enriching experiences through the "Your Singapore" brand and the support from 800 industry partners.
Image courtesy of STB
2011 was a record year for Singapore tourism as visitor arrivals reached 13.2 million and tourism receipts hit SGD22.2 billion. STB forecasted some SGD24 billion in tourism receipts and 14.5 million visitor arrivals for 2012. However this government's economic development agency is not sitting on its laurels. STB's former Chief Executive Ms Aw Kah Peng remarked that while Singapore's tourism had performed very well, it was important to "innovate and build stronger, more competitive tourism enterprises which are focused on quality tourism" including deepening the understanding of consumer needs and strengthening industry capabilities.
Singapore's tourism landscape has changed dramatically over the recent years, making the island-city even more vibrant and exciting as a destination. Additions in 2012 include diverse and new tourism products and developments such as the Marina Bay Cruise Centre, W Singapore Sentosa Cove and Gardens by the Bay.
Based on collective input from the tourism industry, here are 6 main reasons why everyone is visiting Singapore. For more information on must-see attractions, special events, tours, dining options, accommodation and more, please visit the Official Visitor Website at www.YourSingapore.com.
Singapore's unique cosmopolitan culture reflects the harmonious relationship between old and the new. This is highly visible in the blend of modern skyscrapers with heritage buildings all around the island-city. The old Chinese buildings in Chinatown, Muslim characteristic of Kampong Glam and Little India's distinct sights, sounds and scents are still conspicuous among the neighbouring modern shopping malls and offices.
Other historical structures that rest within the modern metropolis reflect landmarks and memorials such as CHIJMES, Dalhousie Obelisk, Merlion Park, Old Parliament House, National Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum and WWII sites like Battle Box, Changi Chapel and Museum, Fort Siloso and Kranji War Memorial.
Singapore National Museum during Night Festival 2012 / Photo by kyeniz
Modern, international mindsets co-exist harmoniously with traditional Asian values in Singapore. This blend of old customs and new urban lifestyles can be experienced through national events like the annual Chingay Parade where traditional Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian elements are showcased alongside contemporary performances.
Visitors frequently associate Singapore with the words 'safe', 'clean', 'green' and 'efficient' and its no wonder. Most expatriates will tell you that Singapore is quite possibly the safest city on Earth courtesy of its strict laws, multilingualism and enhanced security. There are no religious or racial tensions, no civil unrest and the crime rate is as low as 0.38 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 6.4 of New York City and 45.1 of Venezuela. Singapore is also "a safe city for your wealth" according to HSBC Premier. All Singaporeans can converse in English so it easy to communicate and get directions even if you're lost.
Over 50 percent of this island-city comprising of greenery, Singapore has some amazing tropical wilderness and nature-oriented attractions to be enjoyed by visitors. Nature-lovers can wander the hiking trails and encounter over 500 species of fauna, tons of monkeys and the last remnants of Singapore's old growth forests in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
Gardens by the Bay, the newly opened seaside botanical gardens in the CBD continues to enhance Singapore's reputation as a green city. It wow visitors with 15-story vertical gardens known as Supertrees that light up in a stunning display of color every night in addition to cloud forests and waterfalls. 'The Asian Green City Index' commissioned by Siemens in 2011 has found Singapore to be the greenest city in Asia, outranking 21 other major Asian cities including Tokyo, Delhi and Shanghai.
This modern city offers a world-class infrastructure and transport system of well-developed road networks and public transportation systems that allow visitors to access attractions conveniently and quickly. The award-winning Changi Airport provide easy and comfortable connections with over 100 airlines flying to more than 200 cities around the world. Then there's the airport's free day tours, foot massages and WI-FI for travellers to enjoy.
Singapore's pro-business environment, state of the art facilities for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE), dynamic business environment with more than 7,000 multinational companies makes it an frequently-visited city for business. Singapore's compactness means business travellers will find it easy to enjoy the many leisure offerings, whether it is entertaining clients, catching a show, sampling the local cuisine or buying gifts for their loved ones back home.
Singapore is an ideal launch pad for many visitors to commence their exploration of Asia. In addition to being one of the most popular flight connection stops, it is fast becoming the cruise hub of Asia.
Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas / Photo by coolinsights of Flickr
With the opening of the Marina Bay Cruise Centre, cruise passengers on some of the world's largest cruise ships can now discover Asia in style. Celebrity Millennium operated by Celebrity Cruises, will homeport out of Singapore for the first time and is expected to make 10 ship calls during the 2012/2013 season in addition to cruises by Royal Caribbean Cruises. Another luxury cruise liner, Silversea, will be deploying Silver Shadow to Singapore and Seabourn's Seabourn Quest is also making maiden calls to the port. The third largest cruise operator in the world, Star Cruises together with NCL offer a fleet of 18 ships cruising to over 200 destinations with regular cruises out of Singapore.
Star Cruises Star Virgo / Photo by Dave Q of Flickr
With direct access to other Asian destinations like Sihanoukville, Nha Trang, Probolinggo, Komodo, Jakarta, Langkawi, Ho Chi Minh, Ko Samui, Semarang, Bali, Lombok, Kuantan, Penang, Phuket, Malacca, Tioman, Kuala Terrangganu, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu just to name a few, Singapore is an ideal place to embark on a fly-cruise exploration of Asia.
Singapore is a cosmopolitan society where people live harmoniously and interaction among different races is a common part of daily life. Visitors can enjoy the best of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian cultures through the many traditional and religious festivals that fill the Singapore calendar.
Chinese waxed meats at Chinatown's Chinese New Year Market
The cultural and religious tolerance is most clearly illustrated by temples, churches and mosques located side by side on the same street. You can see local Chinese and Hindus frequent each others' places of worship in Chinatown and Waterloo Street. Although the festivals are culture-specific, they are nonetheless enjoyed by all residents and visitors are welcomed to join in.
Chinese visitors to Sri Krishnan Temple / Photo by madaboutasia
Singapore is a dynamic destination that offers a diverse range of exciting activities to suit the different interests of visitors, whether they are leisure or business travellers. Its story of continuing transformation delivers unique, personal and fresh experiences. In addition to the popular Singapore Zoo, Botanic Gardens and Night Safari, Singapore now boast attractions that draw even more visitors. Some of the favourites include the Marina Bay Sands casino hotel and its iconic Sands Skypark, Resort World casino resort and Universal Studios on Sentosa and Singapore Flyer, the giant Ferris wheel at Marina Bay.
Universal Studios Singapore / Photo by eefeewahfah of Flickr
Adding adrenalin and excitement to Singapore's events scene is the world's only FORMULA ONE night race. The Grand Prix Season in Singapore presents opportunities for exclusive experiences for the discerning visitor, from F1 afficionados watching the race from the best suites, to non-race goers who just want to soak up the action outside the race circuit.
24-hour entertainment precincts have also increased the appeal of Singapore's nightlife. Discerning visitors have a myriad of activities to indulge in and places to unwind at including nightclubs such as Pangaea, Avalon and Quaich Bar, Asia's largest whiskey bar in Resorts World Sentosa.
Global and Local Food Paradise
Today, Singapore is widely acclaimed as a global capital for culinary innovation, encompassing not only local street food and fine dining, but also new and innovative dining concepts at all price ranges.
Hawker centres scattered throughout the island-city offer visitors a plethora of cheap and uniquely Singapore-flavour favourites like 'Char Kway Teow', 'Hainanese Chicken Rice', 'Indian Rojak', 'Hokkien Prawn Mee', 'Fried Oyster Omelette', 'Popiah', 'Laksa', 'Kaya Toast' and' 'Mee Rebus' just to name a few.
Black Pepper Crab at The Seafood International Market & Restaurant
Visitors are also enjoy affordable restaurant fare like Black Pepper and Chilli Crabs at The Seafood International Market & Restaurant, Northern and Southern India meals at Gayatri Restaurant, Cantonese cuisine at Hai Tien Lo in Pan Pacific Hotel, and Japanese buffet from Kiseki restaurant.
The dining scene in Singapore has witnessed the emergence of many top quality fine-dining establishments in the past 10 years. 4 restaurants were recognized on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list 2012 including Iggy's at number 26, Waku Ghin by Australia's Tetsuya Wakuda at number 39, Les Amis at number 53 and Restaurant Andre at number 68. Restaurant Andre was also hailed by The New York Times as one of "10 restaurants worth a plane ride".
Book signing with Daniel Boulud / Photo by Urban Mixer of Flickr
Established chefs from around the world have also set up permanent businesses in Singapore. Celebrity chefs such as Susur Lee from Canada, Tetsuya Wakuda from Australia and Wolfgang Puck from US have established their first Asian outposts in Singapore while Michelin-starred French chefs Daniel Boulud and Joel Robuchon, and American Mario Batali have picked Singapore as a key location to expand their restaurant portfolio.
Pollen at Gardens by the Bay / Photo by chooyutshing of Flickr
New arrivals to Singapore include Pollen by one Michelin star chef Jason Atherton of Mayfair's Pollen Street Social. Three Michelin star chef Bruno Menard has also set his sights on making Singapore his new home with the recent opening of his 2 restaurants '&MADE' and 'La Cantine'.