GB Srithar, Singapore Tourism Board talks about reviving tourism post COVID-19

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has brought an unprecedented amount of uncertainty into economies around the world. Countries across the globe are battling growing health threats, implementing wide-ranging safe-distancing norms, while corporates and governments are coming together to support the less fortunate and providing financial relief packages to stabilise economic conditions. This is the biggest challenge that Singapore tourism has faced in its 56-year history, and it will not be easy to navigate.

However, people will continue to travel for leisure and business as the health and safety situation improves – with the domestic market opening first followed by a gradual revival of international travel. This will be a long drawn process.

It is important that businesses in the travel industry observe current consumer behaviour and trends, and come up with strategies to meet their needs. Hygiene and sanitation has to be given utmost priority, while factors like safety, proximity, air connectivity will drive destination choices.

The key priority for all of us in this sector now is to support our governments’ measures to keep citizens and residents as safe and protected as possible, and reducing the risks of infections. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Singapore Government has progressively implemented a series of measures to reduce the risk of imported cases and spread of the virus. We have also been communicating regularly with our valued partners to keep them updated of the situation in Singapore, and the measures we have taken to contain the spread of the virus.

To further support tourism businesses and partners during these challenging times, and to lead them on the path of recovery, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has rolled out several new initiatives. We started a Tourism Recovery Action Task Force (TRAC) to develop and implement strategies to aid the tourism industry and position ourselves for recovery. In addition, we worked closely with the National Environment Agency (NEA) and other government agencies to roll out the “SG Clean” campaign, which provides reassurance that our local businesses maintain high standards of cleanliness and sanitation. As a sign of the government’s commitment to high levels of public health, certification fees for the SG Clean quality mark will be waived this year and next for more than 32,000 premises.

STB India has undertaken the #UnitedWeStand trade engagement initiative and shared emailers, a Letter of Unity and video messages to keep the travel trade updated on Singapore tourism matters and show solidarity and unity with the travel fraternity in these trying times. We have also ramped up our trade outreach efforts through a series of update sessions on Destination Singapore to raise product knowledge of Singapore’s offerings for both leisure and business travellers. This is in fact an opportune time for the tourism industry to invest in their people. We have offered the online version of STB’s Marketing College to our trade partners. This is to help build their marketing capabilities and enable them to be ‘Agile, Bold and Creative’ in their marketing of Singapore.

Although travel restrictions are still in place, this is an important time for travel authorities to drive higher consumer engagement than ever before. Over the last couple of years, we have promoted the destination brand “Passion Made Possible” vigorously and presented Singapore’s diverse offerings to audiences across India – families, early & established careers, cruise travellers, meetings and incentive groups and travellers from key metro and secondary cities.

The Singapore Tourism Board and our tourism partners have been leveraging technology for consumer outreach. We have launched an online edutainment series “Try this at home, Tips from Singapore” which features Singaporean personalities such as sneaker artist Mark Ong; cook, food writer and television host Sarah Huang Benjamin; artist Tan Zi Xi; and Peranakan kebaya makers, brothers Raymond and Edmond Wong. The six-part series released on STB’s YouTube, Facebook and Instagram have these personalities completing various tasks assigned to them in a fun and insightful way. Through these videos, we hope to inspire viewers to explore and develop their passions.

 In 2019, STB partnered with Zomato for Zomaland Season 2, a multicity food and entertainment carnival across ten cities in two formats – Zomaland in Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai; and Zomaland Picnics in Jaipur, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Chennai and Ahmedabad. While the last event in Mumbai was halted due to the COVID-19, outbreak, it gave us an opportunity to innovate and embark on a digital association with Zomato for “Zomaland@Home”, which will be launched in June 2020. This association will feature a number of Singaporean artistes showcasing their talents and passions, while sharing their common love for Singapore’s diverse food culture.

One of Singapore’s key tourism players, Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), has launched an initiative which recreates the popular Sentosa island within the Nintendo Switch game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”. SDC has invited people to visit #VirtualSentosa and explore a recreation of Sentosa – from beach bars to nature trails and even a spot for yoga by the beach. This is part of a series of free online leisure offerings for a stayhomecation, as people around the world stay home in the fight against COVID-19.

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We are confident that we can overcome this because the fundamentals of our tourism industry remain strong. Good tourism growth in the last few years proves that our destination is an attractive one for leisure and business visitors. Our market portfolio is also diverse, with a strong pipeline of long-term plans that will come to fruition in partnership with the industry.

This too shall pass: while the post-COVID world will bring new changes to the travel industry, Singapore, along with the rest of the world, will bounce back strongly to an inherent dynamism.