‘The tourist does not see the country the inhabitants know.’ How far is this true of Singapore?

YES: The tourism sector in Singapore remains largely commercialized and superficial, leaving many tourists with a surface rather than authentic perspective of the country as seen by Singaporeans.  

  1. The tourism sector in Singapore is highly commercialized and supported by various industries, such as hotels, food, beverage and retail, which largely direct tourists and their activities to the urban center rather than the authentic parts of Singaporean life, such as HDB estates.

  2. Government agencies and statutory boards fund programs and facilities that present the more sanitized and glamorized aspects of Singaporean history and culture to tourists, inevitably censoring information and knowledge of societal issues that may either be contentious or controversial.  

  3. As a small and strategically located country in South-east Asia, Singapore is often a transit point into the region’s tourist attractions, such as Malaysia’s nature reserves, rather than an end-destination for many tourists, whose stay in Singapore will necessarily be shorter and cursory.

NO: The tourism sector provides visitors with many opportunities to interact with and understand life as seen by Singaporeans.

  1. More tour operators in Singapore now recognize that tourists desire to experience aspects of authentic Singaporean life and incorporate compatible programs, such as trips to hawker centres in HDB estates, into their itinerary.

  2. Various government programs, such as short home-stay and exchange programs for foreign students, integrate visitors more thoroughly into everyday Singaporean life, providing them with a more authentic experience encompassing both palatable and contentious societal issues.

  3. More tourists today, such as backpackers, recognize the varied cultural and historical depths and experiences available in Singapore and choose to stay longer, thereby undergoing a thorough appreciation of the country that more closely resembles the experiences of Singaporeans.