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Small steps, big impact: How Singapore embraces sustainable tourism

Experts from Sentosa Development Corporation and Monster Day Tours discuss initiatives and projects promoting sustainable travel in Singapore.

Singapore has witnessed a growing recognition among stakeholders about the significance of minimising the environmental impact of tourism.

In an interview with the Singapore Business Review, Lee Cheh Hsien, divisional director of Planning at Sentosa Development Corporation, and Ty Suen, founder of Monster Day Tours, shed light on their efforts and projects supporting sustainable travel.

Sentosa, being a 480-hectare Island, hosts a multitude of businesses as a leisure and tourist destination and so the challenges for it to be sustainable is quite a tall order.

In 2021, management came up with a 10-year plan to better address these challenges through the Sustainable Sentosa Roadmap.

“Our Sustainable Sentosa Roadmap aims to make the island carbon neutral by 2030 and become a globally recognised sustainable destination, focusing on sustainable offerings that allow guests to have a good time whilst understanding our commitment to sustainability,” Lee said.

Their focus areas include offering sustainable guest experiences, reducing their operating footprint, and developing land in harmony with the environment.

One crucial move by Sentosa was to establish the Carbon Neutral Network, which is an alliance of 25 businesses that account for 97% of the island’s carbon footprint.

This network’s initiatives like solarisation efforts and disposables management playbooks contribute to their decarbonisation and waste reduction goals.

“Closing the waste loop and embracing circularity is essential in achieving our goal of not just carbon neutrality, but also minimising our contribution to landfill through initiatives like the disposables management playbook and policy,” Lee said.

As part of this network, Monster Day Tours provides eco-friendly transportation options in Singapore, including Sentosa. “We prioritise the use of eco-friendly transportation options, like public transport in Singapore, to reduce our environmental impact and promote sustainability,” explained Ty.

Additionally, they actively seek partnerships with local businesses that share their commitment to sustainability to incorporate best eco-friendly practices in their narrative.

“We collaborate with accommodations, restaurants, and attractions that practice waste reduction, energy conservation, and support local communities,” Ty said.

An example of this is The Marina Bay Sustainability Puzzle Hunt, an outdoor escape room experience that educates participants about sustainability efforts in Marina Bay whilst exploring attractions in a unique way.

Based on their experience, Ty said Monster Day Tours travelers care about sustainability efforts and desire to be part of it.

“The challenge lies in ensuring that sustainability efforts don’t inconvenience travelers and that the logistics and execution of these initiatives are made easier for them,” he said. “Some travelers may be hesitant due to budget concerns or the process of obtaining eco-friendly options.”

This can be addressed by simplifying the logistics and execution of sustainable initiatives, because by streamlining the process, businesses can encourage more travelers to embrace eco-friendly options.

Ty and Lee also suggested specific sustainable places and activities in Singapore such as visiting Gardens by the Bay to experience sustainable design principles and flora and fauna conservation efforts.

He cited sustainable practices at accommodations like the ParkRoyal Collection Pickering, which offers urban farm tours and meat-free options.

Lee also mentioned the low-carbon tiny houses on Lazarus Island, developed by Sentosa, as an example of how accommodation providers can create environmentally friendly experiences for guests.

Both experts emphasised that tourism businesses can start small and focus on meaningful sustainable initiatives and, to be effective, collaborate with like-minded partners and learn from one another’s experiences.

“Take one step at a time... many little ways, as long as you have a responsibility to the community, you usually can find these angles,” said Ty. “Start small, and then step by step, you can build up what you are doing, making it a bit more sustainable, making it bigger.”

He and Lee also encouraged engaging with younger generations, who are increasingly more aware of sustainability and can offer valuable insights.

As a parting shot, Lee gave this piece of advice: “Invest in culture, because there is no better ambassador for you as a sustainable business than your own frontliners.”

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