Pre-pandemic air connectivity to boost tourism to Singapore

Interview with GB Srithar, Regional Director, Singapore Tourism Board
/ New Delhi
Pre-pandemic air connectivity to boost tourism to Singapore

India was the 3rd largest source market for Singapore prior to Covid-19

With revival of direct air connectivity from 14 cities across India, Singapore is seeing a return of Indian tourists, with mainly families as well as those on VFR visits. Going forward, G B Srithar, Regional Director of Singapore Tourism Board, tells India Outbound that he is looking to top five key segments of visitors, namely families, millennial travellers, cruise tourists, MICE and destination weddings.
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G B Srithar, Regional Director of Singapore Tourism Board

Have Indian tourists started to return to Singapore?

Singapore is now close to pre-pandemic levels situations. The Indian travellers are actually coming to Singapore in higher and higher numbers over the last few months since April 1 to now early June. So the good news is the Indian travellers who have been looking forward to Singapore opening up are now enjoying coming to travel to Singapore.

The good news is also that India is now connected directly to Singapore by 14 direct city points by air. Across India all the key metros, the key city connections that were there before Covid-19, those connections are back and therefore the Indian consumer can now travel from any of the 14 cities directly to Singapore within a 3.5 to 5.5 hours flying radius. So today you can come into Singapore, fully vaccinated, for normal travel. You do not have to, outside or outdoor area no mask is required. Indoor there are still some mask requirements. Whether it comes to dining, lifestyle and events, the entertainment field has opened up. MICE has opened up. So, in many ways Indian travellers can now enjoy Singapore as it was pre-2019.

What were the numbers from India pre-pandemic?

India was our 3rd largest source market prior to Covid-19, giving us 1.41 million visitors. It was our number one Cruise source market before Covid-19, also a very key meeting and incentive markets. Today as we speak, as China is closed and therefore they are not travellers coming in to Singapore from China, Indonesia is our number one source market for visitors’ arrival and India is our number two source market. What I can say is, that we are coming at a back of very intense pandemic period, so the number pick up is growing gradually.

The happening news is that month on month we are seeing a positive increase in visitors from India to Singapore since April 1. It also coincided with family travel season so, it was May- June window, we had our family times now promotion, where we gave 50 pc to children under the age of 12 years old to travel to Singapore with our fellow stakeholder, Singapore Airlines. And our promotions around family holidays allowed a lot of it to family audiences to come into Singapore. Besides, many young Indians are also coming to Singapore.

How has your engagement with travel trade been?

So the good news is STB has been engaging with all our travel trade partner friends throughout the pandemic period. We had run a series of virtual fam trips, roadshows and product update sessions. We even had a wellness initiative where at the peak of all the pandemic, we got the travel trade to come in for a wellness initiative, a virtual wellness initiative. And just to signal to the travel trade partner friends that we are together in this.

So the good news is our engagements in the during the pandemic period has been very well appreciated by the travel trade partner friends. And now as we come out of the pandemic and as we are now on the on the way to recovery, we immediately started our engagements in person. I was happy that in March, after two years, we were actually in various cities from Calcutta to Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, where we engaged together with Singapore Airlines as a partner friend.

We engaged with all the travel treat fraternity in the various cities and our journey continues. From August 1, we are going to do a 5-city roadshow. And this time, 45 Singapore stakeholders are coming from Singapore to engage the travel trade partner friends and we are flowing through five different cities, Calcutta, Ahmedabad, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. So all the major attractions are coming hotels, DMC, tour operators and that is then going to give the travel trip fraternity who is coming from this cities an opportunity to interact with our Singapore stakeholders and find out what are the latest offerings and get ready because it’s August, we are timing it such that you’re getting ready to welcome or bring Indian travellers over to Singapore for the year-end holiday season.

Which are the key target segments for you?

Our key audiences from India, of course, the one main group will be families with children under the age of 12 and Singapore as a family destination is a very, very powerful message that we have in this market and we are doing what is necessary to keep that branding right. Singapore is a great family destination. The product experiences that you can have at either Sentosa, Gardens by the Bay or Marina Bay, Singapore and many others. So, a lot of interesting experiences for the family audience, so that’s going to be one very important segment that we will continue to engage and continue to say that Singapore reinvents itself and the experiences are different every time you visit Singapore.

The second important segment that we are also starting to pivot towards and do a lot more work on is the young Indian audiences. Close to 67 pc of the Indian audience is under the age of 35 years old. How do we present Singapore as a cool happening and exciting destination to the young Indian audiences. The third segment is cruise. India was our number one cruise source market in 2019 and when 150,000 travellers came to Singapore for cruising. Now that Royal Caribbean and Resorts World Cruises have started their cruises, we are looking to engage the cruise holidaymakers and it is a very small group of audiences travelling for a cruise from India at the moment. But we see a huge potential down the years for cruise holidaymakers out of India. The 4th segment is meetings and incentives where India is among our top source markets. Today, as we speak, I am happy to say that there’s going to be a first major group movement that’s going to happen to Singapore plus about 2200 passengers. In due time, you will get to know the details.

The important message to all the corporates or the three intermediaries is very much open to MICE travellers of any size, from few hundred all the way to a couple of thousand movements. And one segment that I am excited to also try to start opening up is Weddings. Our pitch is that Singapore is a fascinating destination and an encompassing city in a garden. Many things you can do in Singapore, you are able to do from a range of things, from food, good stay, wellness, shopping, all of that in a city and at the same time we have some very interesting unique wedding experiences.

How are you positioning Singapore for wellness tourism?

We are now positioning or seeking to position Singapore as a leading urban wellness haven. So the keyword is urban wellness. We are not saying we are a wellness resort island, no, we are not. We are an urban wellness haven. So you can come into Singapore, you do your shopping, do your sightseeing, do go into your attractions. All of that at the same time spend 3-5 days going to a wellness resort, enjoy yourself and then you come back recharged.

What is new for repeat visitors from India?

The novelty factor to encourage repeat travel, one the Museum of Ice Cream. Every time, I mention the Museum of Ice Cream, immediately everybody’s face lights up like, just like yours. So we have got the Museum of Ice Cream now in Singapore, the first city outside of the US to have that. We also have the Slingshot, Asia’s tallest slingshot, which is a new thrill that opened recently at Clarke Quay as well as Sky Helix and this is in Sentosa which  is a very familiar destination or island destination for Indian travellers. In Sentosa now we have Sky Helix, which is Singapore’s first open air panoramic attraction.

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