$20m drive to woo tourists as Singapore turns 50

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) hopes to steer the industry through the travel lull with a $20 million campaign aimed at drawing visitors here during the nation's Golden Jubilee year.

The industrywide campaign will dangle deals and unique experiences on a website to encourage tourists to visit and splurge. It will be launched next month and last till the end of the year.

So far, 20 hotels have agreed to let customers stay two nights and get a third night free, including the Millennium & Copthorne hotel group with five hotels here.

There will also be discounts at shops, attractive flight rates, special menus at restaurants and Golden Jubilee tours.

Such deals were cut by STB representatives, who worked with industry players like hotels, retailers and travel agents to get buy-in.

The investment, announced by Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran yesterday at the Tourism Industry Conference 2015, comes after a dismal showing last year with 15.1 million visitors to the Republic - 3.1 per cent down from 2013 and the first drop since 2009.

Visitor numbers from China, a major market for Singapore, have slid after laws were implemented there to clamp down on cheap package tours that included hidden fees.

There were 2.4 million visitors in the first two months of this year, a 5 per cent decline year on year.

Even with this injection, Singapore can expect tourism numbers to grow modestly, if at all. Visitor arrivals this year are forecast to grow between zero and 3 per cent, with tourism spending expected to go up by zero to 2 per cent.

Mr Iswaran said the conservative forecast is due to an uncertain global economic environment, intensifying regional competition and a strong Singapore dollar.

The campaign, which will be co-funded by STB and the industry, will target tourists from seven countries: Indonesia, China, India, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

At the conference, STB chief executive Lionel Yeo issued what he termed a "call to action" to the 300 or so industry players in attendance.

"It cannot be business as usual... There are growth opportunities for us, but we need to seize them by raising our game and gear up for growth," he said, calling on the industry to contact STB to get listed on the campaign website. He said that STB is prepared to co-fund relevant proposals.

He highlighted some examples to draw inspiration from, including Universal Studios Singapore, which doubled its foreign visitorship last year from 2013 after it "pushed the boundaries on programming" for its Halloween Horror Nights.

STB's new campaign has galvanised some industry players to come on board.

Alvin Fernz, manager of three-star Marrison hotel, jumped to push out a "stay two nights, third night free" promotion as part of STB's new campaign. This is despite it being a money-losing move.

"We are a small property, taking part in the campaign will help us with publicity," he said. "Technically, we will be making a loss. But we want to create awareness of our hotel, so it's a win in the long term."

Attractions such as Sentosa 4D AdventureLand are working out discounts for the campaign, said its director, S. K. Selva.

"STB has a direct reach to overseas markets... Having all the deals and discounts together will really make an impact," he said.

But others, like Izumi Asakawa, vice-president of events firm Amuse Entertainment Singapore, wonder if such a campaign will be effective in the long run.

"If STB is able to support us, that's very helpful," she said. "But things are getting so expensive here, whether it is labour, rental or the cost of production. That's a difficulty we face."


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