The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is an independent body which has been given a responsibility of being a conversion authority and also planning of the land use of Singapore. Their main objectives are to make Singapore a beautiful city to work, live and play in. Their efforts are channel into achieving a wider vision of transforming Singapore into a distinguish tourist destination and at the same time making it a conducive city for its citizens.
URAs responsibility is to optimize the use of nations limited land resources and ensure that physical development of Singapore is gradual. It also has statutory guidelines which cover everything from density plans all the way to the land use. URA seeks to ensure that they maintain sustainability with the limited amount of resources and also conserve the heritage buildings in the city. The responsibility of the URA in Tourism Planning is unimaginable. URA is responsible for influencing top land planning decisions. Singapore has invested in the development of a brand and iconic infrastructures, and it has ensured that the welfare and interests of all the stakeholders and investors are met. URA has developed a comprehensive concept and master plan for segmenting and panning out the land according to different uses for the future. It will also be responsible for authorizing places which want to transform and become tourist sites. Projects such as building a theme park, a resort enclave or a hotel property will have to be identified and properly zoned by the URA. URA plays the role of supplying and distributing infrastructure and land for tourism related purposes. Moreover, it also sets guidelines and rules which help in maintaining and controlling a healthy balance of tourism even after the development of the infrastructure. However, the most significant role of the URA is the conversation of the heritage buildings. This body is committed to conserving the historical buildings and sites which exhibit the ancient charm of Singapore and also showcase multiple cultures of our diverse cultural society through different architecture and architectural designs.
According to Henderson (2005), URA has managed to conserve the entire historic districts of Little India, Chinatown, and Kampong Glam and also up to over seven thousand buildings in more than one hundred places. This clearly shows that URA prioritizes conservation through extensive conservation projects. Through this process, these conservation projects have been able to become a destination full of culture and heritage while at the same time retaining their original charm ("Designing Urban Transformation", 2013). URA is doing a good job in making sure that Singapore becomes a unique tourist destination. It is achieving this by ensuring that the country is developed using appropriate buildings and elements. The conservation of heritage sites and buildings indicates the interconnections between the conservation and tourism planning. Since Singapore is a small city-state with a dense population and a limited land space, it requires comprehensive and extensive planning with regards to tourism. It will be difficult to accommodate the needs of the tourists if the needs of the local community have not at first. Therefore, strategic plans should be implemented to ensure that there is good tourism planning to accommodate all the tourists and at the same time ensuring that the interests of the local community are not compromised. A good balance of resources and land space is relatively significant in ensuring that the requirements of the tourists, as well as locals, are met (Henderson, 2005).
Building tourist destinations with hard and soft infrastructures require a lot of resources, particularly if there is a need to enhance its attractiveness to tourists. Therefore an effective and an efficient tourism plan should be designed beforehand to deliver such infrastructures. It is important to deliver the infrastructure within the stipulated time so that the accommodation of the tourists does not become an issue. Tourism planning is of great significance in making decisions such as what or when infrastructure is to be designed to fit into the tourism plan which STB may set to attain. Marina Bay Sands integrated resorts is an example of a successful tourism planning. Now it is one of the most iconic structures in Singapore, however, it should be remembered that a lot of planning was done before the construction of this resort. The purpose of this planning was to ensure that the resort achieves STB tourism plans of approximately over 10 million tourism arrivals. From this instance, we see that STB and URA have combined efforts to see through that tourism goals are achieved. URA faces a lot of challenges in its operations, some of them include land constraints due to limited land spaces in Singapore. Other measures such as land reclamation should be applied to ensure that the capacity of land is expanded. A lot of land reclamation process has been done on Marina Bay to expand the land southwards to the city. In fact, URA is intending to increase the Marina Bay so that it can accommodate a lot of activities that are currently taking place. It is also becoming an issue reclaiming more land southwards since as we go outwards, the sea grows deep. Moreover, Land reclamation is an expensive project and requires a lot of revenues.
Land reclamation is unstainable and quite expensive, it also has a potential effect on the environment, and this may not be received well by various activist groups and agencies. New iconic buildings have overshadowed the ancient historical buildings like the Fullerton Hotels since tourist perceived them as inferior compared to the new ones. This means that these historical buildings may appear less appealing to the tourists compared to the newer buildings and this is the last thing URA would to experience. Although it may be unstoppable as tourists are likely to be attracted to these iconic buildings and new skyscrapers. Despite providing infrastructure to allow the tourism sector to cater for the requirements of the visitors, URA should also ensure that the requirements of the locals are met. By constantly balancing and harmonizing different competing requirements, URA is spontaneously balancing the physical development of Singapore. It provides guidelines in which pro-active planning can be carefully executed. URA often conducts annually reviews to ensure that guidelines and policies are user-friendly and pro-business. Its responsibility has grown over the years due to changing requirements of Singapore. In the past, URA was just a land sales agent, but nowadays it deals with chain activities such as place management, land sales management, urban design land use planning, and many other more activities. However, ensuring a balance between a good quality of life, built environment and economic growth remains its primary purpose.
According to Friess, (2016), more hotels are estimated to be built in future and consequence more land is going to be required. According to a new study, many hotels are, alongside Victoria Street and it is affecting the local community negatively, some of them are now facing a shortage of business and housing property. If this continues disagreements among the locals are inevitable since some of the locals want to build more flats, but hotels are being built instead. URA should make sure that land is distributed evenly in a manner in which the locals also benefit. A scenario in which locals feel that tourist needs have been prioritized than theirs should not be created, this will just cause more dissatisfaction among them. STB and URA should work together in developing ideas and innovating new strategies for attracting more potential tourists. Tourism can significantly grow if the local community has a positive mentality toward it and when they see their responsibility in the process of tourism development. The quality of life of the host community always experiences radical changes when tourists start storming in. Some are positive, and others are negative. Local communities should see new opportunities in tourism and try to explore them. On the other hand, they should be aware of the negative social, cultural, physical and economic impacts.
STB requires assistance regarding the site planning as well as the infrastructure for them to achieve their vision of turning Singapore into one of the unique destinations around the globe. They are going to need the assistance of the URA, in their process of identifying places for development into tourist sites. Through this collaboration, STB will have the potential to design and implement some of the infrastructures effectively. A good example of projects that have come up due to this collaboration includes revamping of Orchard Road. Combined efforts of STB and URA made Orchard Road one of the greatest streets in the world, just like New Yorks Fifth Avenue. Their techniques have been so fruitful in that; nowadays Orchard Street is characterized by tremendous street lampposts and furniture and dozens of high-end malls. Moreover, Orchard Street is now more connected than ever due to the utilization of pedestrian friendly malls and underground links; this enables people to access different places and malls within Orchard Road. Compared to previous years, Orchard road has now become lively, and many more buskers have been added on to bring a new transformation to the streets. STB is doing a lot of efforts in marketing Orchard Road so that they can attract more tourists. So far the street is doing well, and more and more tourists are streaming in. It is important to note that without the support of URA in planning and designing infrastructures and also in convincing tenants to accept their proposals, the whole project would not have been successful (Henderson, 2005).
It is crucial for state agencies to work together to attain tourism objectives. It is often important to consult different parties before deciding on implementing a plan. Some of the major stakeholders that should always be consulted include the government and the community members. And for these tourism plans to work these two parties need to support each other and work together. Other state corporations such as the URA and STB should come up with master plans which will help boost and improve tourism development. In fact, they are required to encourage other investors by providing them with incentives. These investors should be motivated to take control of several operations of tourism projects. By doing so, these private sector stakeholders can come up with businesses that ensures that tourism destination is fully equipped with tourism supplies such as accommodation, beverages, and food. The government should engage the locals and allow them to express themselves on how they feel about the different projects that are happening. From the revamping of Orchard Road, we see that government corporations are utilizing policies and incentives to attract more private sector players into the tourism sector. This will enable both the government and these investors to benefit equally. In Orchard Road, the government was able to achieve its vision in making it a better tourist destination, while the private investors and all the members of the private sector were able to benefit from the opportunities that came up with it (Yuen, 2009).
It is the priority of the URA to plan for sustainable urban growth within Singapores borders. Especially for a country without the hinterland, land problems is always a common issue. Building more open spaces and parks will mean that most of the members of the local communities will be forced to live in high rise housing. At the same time providing more land to industries will mean that there is a high risk of loss of heritage...
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