A city to sate the appetites of fun seekers

LIKE deft hosts planning a menu for honoured guests, the Singapore Tourism Promotions Board and the tourist industry have combined skills to create an inviting tourism banquet for international visitors.

It is recipe for continued growth, matured over six years. As a result, Singapore has all the ingredients for a destination with limitless appeal.

A taste for the past is amply satisfied through a conservation and restoration programme which has blended the exotic spice of a multi-cultural society with the seasoning of a colonial past.

September 1991 saw the landmark re-opening of Raffles Hotel, the 105-year-old hotel with a historical reputation for hotels unequal in Asia.

With 104 suites, painstakingly restored in a S$160 million (HK$749 million) programme, tourism's ''Grand Old Lady of the East'' greets guests with all the exclusive elegance of her heyday during the 1930s.

At her side is an architecturally sympathetic addition to the hotel complex, housing exclusive shops, restaurants, function rooms, the Raffles Museum and the 400-seat Jubilee Hall.

Raffles Hotel joins the restored Empress Place Museum, which opened in 1989 after a S$22.5 million restoration, Alkaff Mansion and Lau Pa Sat as conservation success stories.

Alkaff Mansion, which re-opened late in 1990 as a turn-of-the-century dining and entertainment venue, is always popular, while the Victorian-style cast iron Lau Pa Sat has injected new life into the business district since re-opening in February last year.

A welcome feature is the row of food carts which open for trade each evening when Boon Tat Street closes to traffic.

Singapore's colonial heritage is spiced with a multi-cultural past, embodied in its ethnic districts.

Chinatown, Little India, Arab Street and Kampong Glam are all part of a conservation programme which enables visitors to trace Singapore's cultural life-force to its source.

Tanjong Pagar weaves stories of the past from more than 200 pre-war shop-houses now occupied by tea houses, pubs, novelty and antique shops, boutiques and the intimate Duxton Hotel and Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

The renaissance continues at Clarke and Boat Quays where godowns and shop houses have been transformed into shops, restaurants, galleries and entertainment venues.

Life-sized porcelain sculptures of Singapore's tourism ambassador - Kucinta the cat - have joined other feline personalities in the Cat Gallery at Sarawak Museum in Kuching.

They have also been presented to distinguished visitors and raised more than S$10,000 for the National Kidney Foundation.

The popular cat has inspired an innovative souvenir range including high-quality jewellery, pewter figurines and a children's book The exotic appeal of ancient Chinese culture has also assured the success of the S$90 million Tang Dynasty City at Jurong which recreates the atmosphere of Chang-An, the imperial city of this famed dynasty which ruled China some 1,300 years ago.

About 25-times larger than the successful Sung Dynasty Village in Hongkong, Tang Dynasty City combines the fascination of modern-day film-making in its on-site studios with the ancient charm of imperial China.

The 12-hectare development opened in January 1992.

Tourism developments transport visitors through time from the streets of Chang-An to the lively ambience of Bugis Street with its shorter, but no less colourful history.

Bugis Street returned in December 1991 to write another chapter in its entertaining story.

The hawkers and their food, which proved an irresistible drawcard in the past, have returned to tempt another generation, with numerous food and beverage outlets and a beer garden.

The banter of pasar malam merchants adds a piquancy to the menu, with more than 100 push-cart hawkers offering everything from roasted chestnuts to fortune telling.

Singapore's unique qualities as a tropical island-city have been progressively utilised through a host of developments of special appeal to visitors.

Sentosa, a long-time favourite, has matured from an island playground to a top-quality resort with the opening of the 215-room deluxe Beaufort Singapore Hotel and the S$52 million Rasa Sentosa Resort.

At their doorsteps, guests of these resort hotels have an island-wide world of attractions ranging from the S$3.5 million Mississippi-styled Sentosa Riverboat to the engrossing Underwater World Sentosa.

Add to that the three-kilometre stretch of golden beach along Sentosa's southern coastline and the S$42 million Asian Village which showcases the arts, crafts and culture of Asia, and tourists need nothing else.

Other attractions include the Jurong Bird Park and Singapore Zoological Gardens. A covered amphitheatre is the ideal venue for the birdpark's shows, while a sleek Panorail allows visitors to see the birds in air-conditioned comfort.

March 24, 1992 marked a significant milestone for the board with the ground-breaking ceremony for the new STPB Building, which is expected to be completed in 1995.