As a small 700km2 country with a five-million-plus population that is known for being avid world travellers, it’s no easy feat for Singapore tourism to pivot towards the domestic market. But with international travel severely hampered and the country’s tourism sector brought to its knees due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has set out to do that with the launch of the new SingapoRediscovers campaign.
The S$45 million (US$33 million) domestic travel campaign, the largest of its kind to stimulate local tourism spending, will see the STB joining forces with Enterprise Singapore and Sentosa Development Board as well as launching partnerships with lifestyle and tourism businesses, business associations, community groups and e-commerce platforms to roll out unique and value-for-money experiences, packages and promotions for locals.
“Singaporeans are known to be avid travellers and are some of the most adventurous in the world. With overseas travel staying off limits for the foreseeable future, we hope to channel the spirit of adventure and discovery inwards towards Singapore and challenge the notion that we have seen everything, done everything and been everywhere in Singapore,” STB chief executive Keith Tan said during a Tuesday media preview of the new campaign.
Stressing that there remains an abundance of undiscovered places and in the city, he added: “Singapore is not boring. We have some of the world’s best hotels, restaurants, parks, neighbourhoods and shopping. It’s easy for Singaporeans to assume they have done everything but I’m convinced there’s much more for Singaporeans to learn about our home.”
Through a three-pronged approach, the nine-month campaign partners local communities to help locals discover hidden gems; curate precinct itineraries to create authentic experiences for locals; and collaborates with hotels, tour operators, attractions and precincts to develop quality experiences and attractive promotions.
Precincts will be packaged as mini-holiday destinations, where locals can embark on a ‘Singapoliday’ to enjoy the many experiences and promotions within.
Established photographers such as Chia Aik Beng have also been roped in to inspire local exploration through their content and insider tips, while curated tours of local precincts and neighbourhoods will be conducted by the Federation of Merchants’ Associations, Singapore, Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore and the Society of Tourist Guides (Singapore).
The campaign also calls upon local business associations to rally their members to collaborate on marketing and promotions, with cross-sector tie-ups between hotels and tour operators such as lyf Funan Singapore with Tribe Tours and Fullerton Hotel with Singapore Sidecars already rolled out.
Sentosa, a major leisure destination in the country, will form a key part of the SingapoRediscovers campaign with its wide-ranging offer of staycation packages, F&B and attractions promotions, and unique back-of-house tours of the island, revealed Thien Kwee Eng, CEO of SDC. Meanwhile, admission charges to Sentosa will also be waived until September 30, 2020 to encourage locals to visit the island.
Riding out Covid storm
STB’s assistant chief executive (marketing) Lynette Pang, citing UNWTO data, said that Singaporeans spent US$34 billion on overseas travel in 2018, and whether the domestic tourism push will be able to drive locals to explore their home country and boost spending on local tourism and lifestyle businesses remains to seen.
As the Covid crisis rages on, Singapore, like many other economies which have suffered the devastating impacts of Covid-19, has seen job losses due to the pandemic, particularly in the tourism and related sectors. Resorts World Sentosa, for instance, has announced a “one-off” layoff as part of cost-cutting measures due to Covid.
The “unprecedented” crisis has brought “daunting challenges” for Singapore, as many local businesses and jobs will be lost in the coming months and Singaporeans will become more prudent in their spending due to wage cut, said Tan. In a reversal of trend from the labour shortage that Singapore tourism had always faced pre-Covid, the opposite is now true as the industry grapples with depressed inbound demand, he added.
“We do not expect the domestic market to fill hole left by inbound tourism, but we can create cushions and buy as much time and get as much revenue as possible for businesses to survive until international travel can resume or a vaccine is found,” he stated.
“Without the support of locals, many jobs will be lost in coming months,” Tan added. “Other countries have a much larger domestic market. We don’t have that and hence we have to work extra hard to get [domestic travel] going.”