Fresh ideas that appeal to visitors

The smaller and older players in the tourism industry are suffering from falling visitor numbers and keener competition.

Here are examples of how others are keeping up.

Build on what you have

Even attractions that are doing well innovate constantly.

Last August, Marina Bay Sands launched its Segway Tours, which allows tourists to view attractions such as The Helix Bridge, Singapore Flyer and Marina Barrage on the motorised two-wheeler.

On April 8, Universal Studios Singapore (USS) launched Puss In Boots' Giant Journey, the first roller coaster in the world to be based on the popular Puss In Boots franchise.

It also launched Easter celebrations last year and expanded it this year to include other Resorts World Sentosa attractions. USS' Halloween Horror Nights and Christmas celebrations will also have more programmes this year.

Souvenir retail chain Risis, known for its 24k gold-plated natural orchid pendants, also innovates constantly. Next month, it will launch five designs under a new line named The Singapore Storytellers Collection. The chain worked with local personalities, including music composer Dick Lee and travel host Anita Kapoor, to design the pendants.

To attract tourists, more than 50 shops at Raffles City offer them privileges, including discounts of up to 20 per cent, as well as free products and services. Every year, the mall also launches a Formula One marketing campaign targeting the throngs of tourists here for the Grand Prix.

Plug a gap in the market

Mr Edwin Low, who owns a souvenir store at the Singapore Art Museum, came up with his own designs when he realised there was a lack of "truly Singaporean" souvenirs.

All one could find were Merlion keychains and tacky T-shirts imported from countries like China and Vietnam, said the founder of lifestyle store Supermama.

In 2013, the trained industrial designer worked with local designers to come up with 15 souvenir designs, including porcelain plates bearing Singapore icons, such as Housing Board flats. He then contacted a Japanese manufacturer and pumped in $30,000 to produce 4,500 items. Everything, he said, sold out within six months.

Revenue from the 70 sq m store at the museum jumped by 50 per cent compared to a year ago, and he introduces a new item each month. The secret, he said, is that he genuinely cares about telling the Singapore story, a trait that many of his Japanese designer friends share.

"I learnt a lot from the Japanese. They are genuinely interested in representing a part of their culture. This is lacking here," said Mr Low, who started off importing items from Japan when he entered the souvenir business in 2011. "Many souvenir shops choose items based on which one can give them the wider profit margin."

Another example of an attraction that is "plugging the gap", said Mr Michael Chiam, a tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, is the Night Safari. It is one of a few "night attractions" here. The Night Safari had 1.1 million visitors last year, a number unchanged from 2013.

The upcoming hawker stalls at Palawan Beach on Sentosa, he said, will also meet tourists' need for more local and affordable food offerings on the island.

This article was first published on April 20 2015.
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