Capturing local hearts

With Singaporeans urged to play tourists on home ground, businesses are reinventing their content to excite local hearts. Pamela Chow finds out more.

As the coronavirus continues to stalk global tourism, Singapore is sparing no effort to revive the country’s ailing sector, with the domestic market coming into play.

In December 2020, the Singapore Tourism Board threw a lifeline to struggling tourism businesses by giving every adult citizen S$100 (US$75) in SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) to spend on hotel staycations, attraction tickets and tours, valid through June 30, 2021. This was accompanied by the Singapoliday campaign, detailing promotions and offerings available in 10 precincts, including the Civic District, Kampong Gelam and Sentosa.

Infinity Space, Singapore Flyer Time Capsule

As the tourism economy leans on the whims of domestic demand, experiences once suited for international travellers must now be adapted for the trained local eye. Looking beyond providing simple heritage trails and cultural walking tours, businesses are reinventing themselves to keep the tourism engine running.

Collaboration is key
While Singapore is no stranger to innovative tours, operators are upping their creative game to capture locals’ attention, driven by collaborative efforts. In response to the SRV scheme, Monster Day Tours (MDT) and DMC Xperience Singapore Events & Travel have partnered with a variety of local brands to roll out a slew of unique experiences, some on a limited-time basis.

For instance, foodies can embark on a gastronomic journey exploring award-winning dining spots along the Singapore River, through a collaboration between Singapore River One and MDT. The agency, together with Marina South Ferries, is also offering a guided sunset sail through the Southern Islands.

Xperience Singapore, meanwhile, is offering exclusive back-of-house sessions, such as a “declassified” tour of the Singapore Zoo and a journey through the relatively unknown colonial remnants of Seletar, followed by a visit to a private aircraft hangar in Seletar Aerospace Park.

“The SRV campaign has provided a much-needed boost to the tourism industry in Singapore. December was an especially crazy month for us as we had tours every day. 2020 taught us that collaboration and adaptation of new technologies is key,” shared TY Suen, founder & CEO of Woopa Travels, the parent company of MDT.

Jane Goh, Xperience director, Xperience Singapore Events & Travel, shared that while the agency’s previous tours were generally not targeted at locals, its new offerings were specially curated for the SRV scheme.

She said: “The non-mainstream tours have been very popular, and this healthy exposure has (helped us) create brand awareness in the local market. We are curating new exclusive tour experiences for when the SRV programme ends in June 2021.”

A special touch
The SRV scheme has also proved a saving grace for local hotels and attractions, with locals finding more than the regular staycation or express ticket on sale. Along with a selection of room types or family packages, guests have the option to embark on an exploratory tour during their staycation, or enjoy a rare, memorable experience in a popular attraction.

At One Farrer Hotel & Spa, for instance, guests may choose a 3D2N stay that includes a two-hour guided trail of Jalan Besar and Little India; a Tekka Market to Table Tour; an educational session in the hotel’s own 11,000m² urban farm; and a culinary masterclass with lunch at award-winning restaurant Escape. The package was created in collaboration with destination specialist Tour East Singapore and PPP Coffee.

Putting a twist on the staycation concept, Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel launched its 8-Hour English High Tea Daycation, inclusive of an eight-hour day use of a deluxe room, high tea for two and access to select leisure facilities.

Attractions, as well, are getting in on the action. Resorts World Sentosa turned its S.E.A. Aquarium into dining concept Aqua Gastronomy, which has been extended for the final season into spring. To complement its Sky Dining Experience, Singapore Flyer unveiled an immersive, multisensory attraction accompaniment. The Time Capsule takes visitors through Singapore’s 700-year history, concluding with a sweeping view of the city-state’s transformation from its Giant Observation Wheel.

Ringo Leung, general manager of Singapore Flyer, shared that to present the Singapore story in a fresh light to a domestic audience, a light-hearted approach was taken, with “the story of Sang Nila Utama finding Singapore (in 1299) told from the perspective of the lion on the island”.

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