Sentosa courts Chinese tourists amid major transformation

AJ Hackett Sentosa Bungy Jump

Singapore’s Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) is intensifying efforts to woo more tourists from China as the destination welcomes a series of new developments promising to widen the island’s appeal.

“Tourists prefer to visit Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), not Sentosa as a whole island,” observed Joseph Sze, senior director of Siam Express, a Singapore DMC.

Sentosa keen to capture more Chinese inbound travellers to Singapore; AJ Hackett Sentosa Bungy Jump pictured

He opined that while Sentosa has “great tourism resources and market potential”, it would fare better among both international and domestic visitors by rebranding and repositioning as “a whole integrated island”.

But this is set to change with redevelopment plans, which could see the nearby Pulau Brani “transformed” as part of Sentosa while “retaining the island charm with new attractions and nature zones”, revealed SDC’s assistant chief executive and chief financial officer, Chin Sak Hin.

“We are working closely with the other government agencies on planning this whole area. We are now at the masterplanning stage,” he said.

Meanwhile, Far East Hospitality (FEH) is launching three hotels along Artillery Avenue in the Palawan area, covering three different segments of the traveller market.

Opening in April 2019 are Village Hotel at Sentosa, offering 606 rooms, as well as the 193-key The Outpost Hotel, featuring a stylish adults-only colonial island concept. In 3Q2019, The Barracks Hotel will open its 40 rooms in a conserved colonial building in the style. The three properties will raise Sentosa’s total room count to 4,200.

Arthur Kiong, CEO, FEH, said: “Sentosa has always been known as a regional tourist spot. However, we found that 90 per cent of the market currently comprises luxury hotels, so we saw an opportunity to add to the island’s mid-tier inventory.”

As change comes to the island, SDC’s Chin told TTG Asia: “The Chinese market is very important to us. We have invested quite a lot in this space. We have accounts on digital channels Mafengwo and WeChat and we are working with big OTAs like Ctrip. Last year we also rolled out AliPay islandwide; now about 70 per cent of businesses on the island accept AliPay.

“We still see a lot of scope for us to invest in China’s digital space. We need to do even more to engage Chinese tourists, of which there are increasingly more FITs.”

Not only are Chinese travellers digitally savvy, they are also “world-savvy”, and are now in search of unique and different experiences, Chin explained.

To cater to such changing preferences, Sentosa has been rolling out a year-round calendar of diverse and “relevant” events, said Chin.

Launching soon is the Pikachu Night Parade, the first to be hosted outside of Japan, as part of Sentosa’s Island Lights light-up event next month.

SDC will market these events and attractions based on themes such as beach, music, food, sports and festivals, to help visitors gain awareness of the island’s suite of offerings.

Meanwhile, broader developments are underway to give visitors more access to attractions on the island. SDC’s My Sentosa App was refreshed with new functionalities such as itinerary planning, smart navigation and gamified trails.

“The island is also working with the Ministry of Transport and ST Engineering Land Systems (on) autonomous Mobility-On-Demand-Vehicles, which will go on a public trial next year,” added Lynette Ang, SDC’s chief marketing officer.

Other activities promising to bring change to the island include the redevelopment of Sentosa’s main north-south pedestrian thoroughfare by 2021, a robust calendar of unique events such as the Sentosa Sandsation: Marvel Edition and Sentosa GrillFest, as well as developing the Sentosa 2030 masterplan.

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