SINGAPORE: Residents of Singapore are being encouraged to take a local holiday – dubbed a “Singapoliday” - and rediscover their home country while supporting local business through a S$45 million marketing campaign over the next nine months by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and other agencies.
“The campaign will offer unique and value-for-money experiences, packages and promotions for locals,” said the STB, Enterprise Singapore and Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) in a media release.
The agencies are partnering local communities, such as foodies, photographers, nature groups and heritage groups, to help locals discover hidden gems.
READ: Retrenchments in tourism industry are 'inevitable' without resumption of mass market travel: Chan Chun Sing
It is also launching precinct itineraries, beginning with areas like Little India, Sentosa, Chinatown, and Orchard Road, to get residents to explore different parts of the island.
"Singapore has a significant domestic market that is searching for new experiences ... if we're able to capture a slice of what we used to spend overseas for the domestic market, then I think it will be a significant boost to our local tourism industry," said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing at a virtual dialogue with tourism industry players on Wednesday (Jul 22).
"And we will encourage Singaporeans to rediscover Singapore, as we have never seen or experienced before."
The initiative comes as the number of tourists visiting Singapore has plummeted. In May, there were 880 visitor arrivals, a year-on-year decline of 99.9 per cent.
As part of efforts to drive local tourism, around 40 businesses have come on board to offer some 80 promotions for attractions, tours, and hotel stays, said the media release. Some of these will be offered in conjunction with Singapore’s 55th National Day on Aug 9.
For example, there will be a 55 per cent discount on Changi Experience Studio tickets and on Singapore Cable Car Sky Passes, as well as 1-for-1 deals at attractions like Wild Wild Wet and Madame Tussauds.
Some hotels are offering staycation deals packaged with local tours, while local tour companies will be tailoring their tourist offerings to appeal to locals. Sentosa will also be offering a range of promotions and staycation packages.
STB said that the details of these packages, deals and promotions will be available on its SingapoRediscovers website and the VisitSingapore mobile app.
REDIRECTING SINGAPOREANS' SPENDING OVERSEAS
The campaign was designed based on research which showed that Singaporeans are willing to venture out for “authentic insider experiences” that will help them reconnect with friends and family, said Ms Lynette Pang, STB’s assistant chief executive, Marketing Group.
Two key considerations were hygiene and safety – given the continued COVID-19 outbreak, and whether the activities were value-for-money, due to the current economic uncertainty. According to UN estimates, Singaporeans spent more than S$34 billion on overseas travel, she said.
“That's the challenge for us - whether we can redirect some of that spending towards our local tourism and lifestyle, businesses. Therefore, what we want to do is to remind locals to look at Singapore through fresh eyes to discover Singapore again,” said Ms Pang.
STB chief executive Keith Tan said that taken together, the campaign efforts constitute the largest domestic marketing push STB has ever taken. However, he does not expect domestic consumption to cover the S$27.7 billion of gross receipts international visitors brought to Singapore last year.
“This year, we do not expect domestic consumption to fill the hole left by the diminution of international travel,” he said. “But what we hope to do is to create cushions … buy as much time as we can (for) businesses. So you have to take into account all that we're doing to reduce costs, help businesses with cash flow (and) manage the cost ... Now we're trying to help them get as much revenue as we can.”
The Singapore Government has provided close to S$100 billion of COVID-19 support and relief for Singapore families, workers and businesses in four Budgets this year.
“Over the past months, we have helped over 7,000 tourism businesses in saving jobs and retaining workers. Wage support has also been provided to over 1,600 tourist guides who are largely self-employed,” said Mr Tan.
But he said that there could be more layoffs in the industry. Resorts World Sentosa, one of the largest tourism employers here, retrenched staff last week as part of cost-cutting measures.
“Given the severe impact that COVID-19 has had on international travel, it is inevitable that more job losses will happen in the coming months. Some of the support measures that minister spoke of earlier will eventually taper off, but I assure you that STB will continue to support you in other ways,” he said to industry players on Wednesday.
MORE THAN HALF OF HOTEL ROOMS FOR COVID-RELATED USES
Answering reporters’ questions at a virtual briefing, Mr Tan said STB has never tracked what Singapore residents spend domestically and there is no numerical target for how much spending the agency hopes to stimulate through the SingapoRediscovers campaign.
“Certainly we hope that our S$45 million will have a multiplier effect, and we will be looking at those numbers maybe in nine months’ time,” he said.
The tourism industry, which contributes 4 per cent to Singapore’s GDP, has been one of the worst-hit in the COVID-19 pandemic. While Singapore’s “circuit breaker” ended on Jun 2, attractions only reopened and hotels are just starting to take guests for staycations this month.
About 80 hotels have received approval to resume operations for staycations as of Jul 21.
Mr Tan said that more than half of the estimated 67,000 rooms in Singapore are currently used for COVID-related purposes.
“The opening of hotels for staycation has to be balanced against making sure that we have enough of a buffer of hotel rooms … in case there's any subsequent surge of infections,” he said. “Hence … we haven't given carte blanche to the entire hotel industry to reopen for staycation, we do it on a case by case basis.”
Authorities have warned that Singapore could see a second wave of infections and must be prepared for it. With the increase of economic activity and social interaction since the start of Phase 2, Singapore should expect to see the number of cases rise, the Health Minister had said last week.
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Responding to questions related to concerns about a possible second wave of infections, Mr Tan said that transmissions in the community remain low as of now, and STB will be guided by the Health Ministry’s assessment on the pandemic.
“Even as we re-open gradually, not just SingapoRediscovers but the overall economy … all the government agencies that are doing safe management measure enforcement, including STB, will continue to have a very high level of checks and enforcement,” he said.
LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENTS TO CONTINUE
He noted that Singapore was the fifth most visited city in the world and it remains well-positioned for recovery when international travel returns.
“That may seem very far away. But we are already working on market-specific plans for international recovery and will activate these plans when we sense the earliest glimmers of recovery,” he said.
Mr Chan said that Singapore can build on its reputation as a safe country with good health standards.
"One of the reasons that people come to Singapore is because they see us as a safe place to live and play. They see us as having good health standards, good information sharing and it allows them to have the peace of mind to bring their families here ... I think we will need to build on this," he said.
He added that Singapore will continue to execute its long-term plans for the tourism sector as authorities believe that global tourism will recover progressively.
"When it recovers, it will go for higher quality, niche market products that will provide even more unique experiences to the customers," he said.
STB will be aiming to launch a request for proposal for the integrated tourism development in the Jurong Lake District by this year. The agency is also exploring concepts for the launch of the Singapore race course at Kranji as a leisure destination, Mr Chan said.
"These developments are all signs of our confidence in the future of the tourism industry, and our determination to keep investing to create good business opportunities and good jobs for our workers," he added.