Food and Its Place in Singapore's Tourism, Culture & Society

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Define culture and tourism; explain how culture and tourism interact using Singapore as an example of how government leverage on culture to develop and promote tourism*; highlight the key areas which are attractive to tourists – 6 marks;

1.1Definition of Culture
As defined by UNESCO, 1982, culture is “the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual, and emotional features of society or a social group. In addition to art and literature, it encompasses lifestyles, basic human rights, value systems, traditions, and beliefs.” Culture is a system of meaning influencing how we behave and interact, consisting of explicit (visible) and implicit (invisible) elements. For this assignment, I have chosen to research on Singapore’s food culture, which not only involves the tangible food itself, but also the intrinsic ‘makan’ (Malay for ‘eat’) culture that is shared by Singaporeans.

1.2Definition of Tourism
The UNWTO, 1995, defines tourism as “the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.

1.3Relationship between culture and tourism in Singapore
When these two elements combine, we have cultural tourism. Singapore’s food is a direct representation of our different ethnic cultures, giving rise to distinct cultural dishes such as the Malay lontong and the Chinese bak kut teh. When tourists consume these dishes, they participate in cultural immersion and are able to experience for themselves the cultural differences behind these cuisines i.e. the use of strong spices in Indian cusine or the non-consumption of pork amongst the Muslims. Certain dishes such as the Chilli Crab or rojak celebrate the combination of our diversity as a whole and the shared culture of Singaporeans who ‘live to eat’.

Hence, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has turned local food into a major tourism product, launching a food guide entitled "Makan Delights – An Insider’s Guide to Singapore’s Unique Flavors", which will be distributed at various tourist points such as Changi Airport, hotels and overseas intermediaries. By highlighting ‘must-trys’ such as char kway teow and satay, STB aims to promote Singapore as an exotic ‘foodie heaven’.

Due to the smorgasboard of choices, food guide books, food tours or publicised food haunts will be popular with tourists as it helps them navigate and narrow down the possibilities to a few that would give them the most benefits for their time and money.

According to …. Cultural tourism refers to forms of tourism that highlight the cultural, heritage or artistic aspects of a destination or experiences and activities for the tourist- a kind of cultural immersion.

Emaphasis on learning about, experiencing or understanding cultural activities, resources and/or other cultures. Focus on the educational, experiential and communicative experience and on the authenticity, transparency or honesty of such encounters. UNESCO. (1982) United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Declaration on Cultural Policies. World Conference on Cultural Policies, Mexico City.

UNWTO. (1995) United Nations World Tourism Organization technical manual: Collection of Tourism Expenditure Statistics". World Tourism Organization. 1995. p. 10.

1. Discuss how globalisation has affected the way the government has ‘preserved’, ‘packaged’ and ‘presented’ our cultures through tourism – 14 marks.

With the rise of globalisation, there has been a greater need for Singapore to establish a strong cultural identity for ourselves in the midst of greater global tourism competition, and the government has attempted to use local food as one of the main marketing points for tourists to identify Singapore by.

When tourists think about Thailand, they think tom yum; similarly, STB wants to create a strong association between certain iconic dishes and Singapore. This is one of the...
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