A Tale of Diversity

In STB, ideas are its lifeblood, excitement can be found at every turn, and boredom is an adjective that’s never used. We speak to two STB scholars who are on the ride of a lifetime.

By Farhan Shah

Law Yock Song leans forward in his chair, the happiness apparent in his eyes, and says, “One of my guests came back to the Singapore Visitors Centre on the last day of her holiday just to thank me.”

To the 27-year-old, it is these small pockets of interaction that makes working in the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the organisation dedicated to promoting and projecting Singapore as the choice destination for leisure and business tourists, very heartening.
After having worked in STB for more than three years, the SMU alumnus has collected a vast catalogue of memorable experiences.

Behind The Scenes
He recalls the Singapore F1 Grand Prix in 2009 as one of his most challenging but memorable projects he’s had the good fortune to be a part of.

Joining the team in June when preparations were already in full swing, Yock Song handled stakeholder engagement. What this meant was that he acted as the bridge between affected businesses and the Land Transport Authority, not an easy task considering the number of places he had to deal with; from large hotel chains to gargantuan shopping malls, all of them were clamouring for a piece of his time.

“You have to manage all these different relationships and make sure everything is on an even keel. If your relationships with the businesses are affected, then it becomes difficult to get their cooperation when certain items need to be accomplished,” Yock Song says.
What most people watched on the television screens during the race was a culmination of the collective team effort put in for nine months prior to the race.

Diverse Challenges
Indeed, diversity is the bread and butter of STB, with STB officers being tasked with a wide variety of projects. After the success of the F1 race, Yock Song was tasked with the development of the business tourism sector, where he enticed large corporations or organisations to hold their summits and meetings in Singapore among other responsibilities.

Business tourism might not have the same lustre and glamour of leisure tourism but it’s no less important, accounting for a hefty 27% of total visitors to Singapore and contributing approximately S$5.4 billion in tourism receipts.

While others would have baulked at the portfolio that Yock Song handled, the charming man enjoys getting his teeth into whatever he’s doing. The go-getter is now on his next adventure, promoting Singapore as a tourism destination of choice in STB’s Vietnam office.

Three months before the trip, Yock Song went through the necessary meetings to ensure that he was adequately prepared for the challenge. “I met all the different stakeholders to understand their businesses, went for in-depth briefings and discussions, travelled to the site for inspections, and even learned the language! However, I have to admit I’m still not very good at Vietnamese,” Yock Song says with a sheepish smile.

Eureka Ideas
20-year-old Marissa Louise is one of STB’s newest scholars who is now standing on the same path that Yock Song tread on. Much like Yock Song, the International Relations undergraduate wanted a job that was not only intellectually stimulating but would also have elements of creativity and vision.

“After reading up on STB and its other major projects, such as the Asia Fashion Exchange, Singapore Sun Festival, ZoukOut, and the International Cruise Terminal, I knew this was a place that would provide for an exciting work experience,” the youth says.

In an industry where change is the only constant, keeping an open mind and flexibility are two incredibly important prerequisites and Marissa gushes that this is where STB truly shines.

“Furthermore, I believe what differentiates STB from many other employers is that they value creativity, ‘people-centredness’, and a sense of fun! These are extremely important qualities that come into play not only when dealing with various stakeholders, but when conceptualising original tourism experiences and innovative concepts that appeal to a wide range of audiences.”

It’s plain to see that Marissa has a large number of ideas floating around in her mind just waiting to see the light of day. One of the concepts she’s most excited about is to take advantage of the outlying islands around Singapore. With land being at a premium in the country, finding space to create new and bigger attractions becomes doubly difficult, which is one of the challenges that Singapore’s tourism industry has to grapple with and one that Marissa is clearly relishing.

Boredom? What’s That?
This depth and breadth of career opportunities and experiences is something both Marissa and Yock Song appreciates. “Due to the wide spectrum of industries that STB deals with, this gives us a platter of choices that we can choose to handle. Not only does this grant us lots of exposure, the variety of experiences will also ensure we never get bored!” Marissa says.

In fact, being bored is almost clearly impossible, judging from my conversations with the duo. As Yock Song says, the currency and lifeblood of STB is ideas to continually revamp, renew, and reinvigorate Singapore’s tourism industry.

“One of the ideas that I have is to turn Singapore into a city like Paris or London. If you look at Paris or London, you realise that there are no new attractions but they continually get repeat visitors. It’s thanks to the image that they’ve created and I want to create this image for Singapore, as a place to go to and visit repeatedly without the need for new attractions,” Yock Song says.

As the interview winds down, I ask the duo to describe the multi-faceted working life in STB in three words. The both of them stare into the distance; I could feel their minds creaking to sum up the diverse experiences they’ve had succinctly into three words.
Yock Song and Marissa glance at each other before Yock Song turns to me with a smile and says, “No dull moments.”