Already renowned as a food destination with myriad dining options from hawker fare to celebrity restaurants, Singapore’s Michelin debut is just the icing on the cake in luring visitors, discovers Paige Lee Pei Qi
Singapore’s reputation as a thriving dining city was further elevated with the launch of its first Michelin Guide last year, which cemented the city’s honour of being the first and only country in South-east Asia to be covered by the guide.
Not only is Singapore the first South-east Asian city to boast two hawkers with the coveted Michelin star, it is also home to the world’s most affordable Michelin-star meal – Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodles, rated one star, offers dishes from just S$2 (US$1.40).
Such attractions make compelling drawcards for tourists to Singapore, and tour operators in Singapore are quick to seize the Michelin buzz as marketing opportunities.
Fred Seow, senior vice president of marketing & B2B at Asiatravel.com, said: “This Michelin Guide will give us good mileage in the Singapore brand story. It is a clear recognition of our overall F&B standards and not just the credited restaurants. It also demonstrates our originality and creativity so this means we are an exciting place even when food, a basic need in travel, is concerned.”
Star Holiday Mart has since included several Michelin-listed restaurants and hawker stalls in some of its tours, a move that general manager Dominic Ong said has boosted the appeal of their packages due to the strong recognition of the food guide among global travellers.
Even for visitors who are not drawn to Singapore for its food, the city’s F&B offerings can still be “a great complement to their trip”, Ong opined. To encourage repeat visits, he suggests promoting more gourmet restaurants in the city to international travellers.
Also seeing a “good selling point” in the Michelin Guide, GTMC Travel CEO Samson Tan intends to include the newly crowned Michelin-star dining experiences in his packages, but will wait for the hype to die down before officially selling them. “There are too many long queues for the hawker stalls,” he said.
Such recognition naturally lends a hand in the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) destination marketing efforts. Said Ranita Sundra, director of attractions, dining and retail at STB: “This guide further reinforces Singapore’s standing as Asia’s hub for culinary excellence and encourages the growth of gastro-tourism by further elevating awareness and interest in our diverse dining options.”
But with or without the Michelin gastronomic guide, Sundra pointed out that the Lion City is already home to a dynamic array and diversity of dining experiences in culinary hotspots such as Arab Street and Tiong Bahru Market.
She said: “We also emphasise the experiential epicurean adventures available there. For instance, food lovers can enjoy a duality of dining experiences in unexpected places, like Bincho (in Tiong Bahru Market). It is a mee pok stall by day that transforms into a yakitori omakase restaurant at night.”
To heighten awareness of Singapore’s booming dining scene, Sundra said that STB has been supporting food programmes like the recent debut season of reality TV MasterChef Asia, which showcases Singapore’s culinary diversity, from street food to fine dining.
Meanwhile, Karni Tomer of walking tour operator Wok ‘n’ Stroll sees food tours as opportunities to introduce foreign visitors to bona-fide cultural experiences in Singapore.
“We don’t only eat during our food tours. We also guide tourists through the country’s food culture and tell them the story of Singapore through food,” said Tomer, citing examples of walking food tours that go into a heritage enclave boasting Indian and Chinese temples or visit a TCM shop stocked with herbs.
“Culinary tours are a big trend, especially in the past year. It is a great boost to the tourism industry as people are looking for more ways to feel the local experience.”