STB launches S$45m domestic tourism campaign to encourage locals to discover hidden gems in Singapore
SINGAPORE — With the resumption of international travel nowhere in sight due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is urging local residents to rediscover Singapore in a bid to prop up the tourism sector.
- Singapore Tourism Board will hold a campaign to revive toursim industry over nine months
- Tour bundles include staycations, heartland tours and attraction discounts
- This is the largest amount ever devoted to domestic tourism
- Tourism sector still in the doldrums, more closures and retrenchments expected
SINGAPORE — With the resumption of international travel nowhere in sight due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is urging residents here to rediscover Singapore in a bid to prop up the tourism sector.
On Wednesday (July 22), together with trade agency Enterprise Singapore and Sentosa Development Corporation, which manages Sentosa Island, it launched a nine month-long domestic tourism campaign costing S$45 million that is called SingapoRediscovers.
STB is working with various industry partners as well as community groups to offer a number of tour bundles for Singapore residents.
These bundles include staycations at hotels including those on Sentosa island, heartland tours to explore undiscovered areas of interest, as well as discounts to visit attractions.
Some confirmed events include the e-Great Singapore Sale from Sept 9, a virtually held Singapore Food Festival in August and culinary workshops in Little India and Chinatown.
In a media release, STB stated that this campaign to drive domestic demand is the largest ever introduced in Singapore.
In 2003, the Step Out! Singapore campaign launched after the country was hit by an outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) cost S$2 million.
And in 2009, after the global financial crisis, STB launched a campaign costing S$90 million, of which S$10 million was devoted to domestic tourism.
Speaking to the media during a preview of the launch on Tuesday, STB’s chief marketing officer Lynette Pang said that the S$45 million would be spent on three key areas:
Direct marketing of various attractions, retail and events
Collaborating with industry partners for promotions
Marketing grants for industry partners
STB’s chief executive Keith Tan, also speaking during the virtual briefing, said that the amount spent on domestic tourism this time has been “sized-up appropriately” because the Covid-19 pandemic will be a long drawn-out affair.
“So we will have to be quite prudent on how we spend the S$45 million and how we use it over the next nine months,” he said.
MORE RETRENCHMENTS EXPECTED
Mr Tan said that the intention of this campaign is to help boost the revenue streams of domestic businesses as a complement to government subsidies given out over the four national budgets this year to help businesses.
Given that Singaporeans spent S$34 billion on overseas travel in 2018, Mr Tan said that he hopes this campaign will channel a “small portion” of that amount to tourism domestically.
When asked whether STB has a target that it hopes to achieve through this campaign, he said there is no target set because the government agency has never tracked the amount that Singaporeans spend domestically and there is therefore no baseline from which to set a benchmark.
However, Mr Tan said that this bid to drive domestic tourism would not be enough to plug the hole left behind by the absence of international travellers, who contributed S$27.7 billion in tourism receipts last year.
“We do not expect domestic consumption to fill the hole left by the diminution of national travel… What we're hoping to do is to cushion the impact so that there is no catastrophic job loss or massive retrenchments that would maybe destabilise not just the economy, but destabilise Singaporeans’ sense of well-being, sense of hope and confidence in the Singapore economy,” he said.
The tourism sector has been one of hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis as governments globally have closed borders to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Giving an update on how the tourism sector performed in the first quarter, Mr Tan said that room revenues for the hotel industry fell 31 per cent compared with a year ago, while tourism receipts for shopping plunged 52 per cent over the same period.
He added that STB expects further declines in the coming months leading to retrenchments and furloughs, where workers are forced to be absent temporarily from work.
Last Wednesday, Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), which operates a casino, the Universal Studios Singapore theme park and hotels on Sentosa, said that it will be laying off workers due to the “devastating impact” that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the tourism industry, though it declined to reveal the number of retrenched employees.
SAFE DISTANCING MEASURES STILL IMPORTANT
Despite encouraging Singapore residents to take up domestic tour packages, Mr Tan said that commercial viability has to be balanced with safety — so that all businesses will have to adhere to capacity limits and put in place safe distancing measures.
Not all hotels are being allowed to reopen for staycations because there must be enough rooms set aside as facilities for people returning from overseas who have to serve stay-home notices, he explained.
Out of the more than 100 hotels that have applied to reopen, more than 80 have been approved to take staycation bookings.
Ms Thien Kwee Eng, chief executive officer of Sentosa Development Corporation, said that about 80 per cent of the attractions and food-and-beverage outlets on Sentosa Island have reopened.
More than half of the hotels on Sentosa will progressively reopen, she added. As to when the rest of the hotels are reopening, this will depend on their future arrangements.
In response to a question by the media on the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus infections and how this will affect STB’s plans, Mr Tan said that the agency would adhere to the advice and assessments by the Ministry of Health if that happens.