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‘STB is ready to support agents with the Cruise Development Fund scheme for marketing’

Singapore Tourism Board is gearing up to welcome tourists from India with renewed vigour after a lull of two years. GB Srithar, Regional Director – India, Middle East & South Asia, Singapore Tourism Board, talks to Disha Shah Ghosh about revising cruise tourism strategy, and the change in opening of new resorts currently under development due to the pandemic-induced stress in the real estate sector.

Q. Singapore was a popular destination for cruising for Indian travellers. What revisions are being made to the strategy with limited cruising options currently?

With effect from 1 April 2022, fully vaccinated travellers can take any flight to Singapore to enjoy quarantine-free visits, without requiring an on-arrival test. The easing of travel restrictions comes at an opportune time for our audiences in India. The start of the peak summer family travel season is just around the corner allowing Indians an excellent opportunity to explore Singapore’s new and reimagined tourism offerings. According to the latest COVID-19 impact analysis report commissioned by the STB, India has the highest level of confidence to travel and desire to travel among the 15 key source markets surveyed, for both leisure and business travel.

India is a key source market for Singapore, not just for leisure and business travel, but also for cruise tourism. The healthy development of domestic cruise products in India has helped to sustain interest among the Indian audience to cruising overseas and Singapore remains an attractive option as a leading cruise hub of Asia. Prior to the pandemic, cruising out of Singapore was a popular programme among India “families with kids” and MICE corporate incentive trips.

We believe Singapore will continue to draw cruise holiday-makers from India as we welcomed the launch of Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas which set sail on April 11, 20022 with year-long home porting at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre. We are heartened to know from the travel trade that consumers are looking forward to travel to Singapore and sail again on the “cruise-to-nowhere” itinerary. We have already started our consumer engagement efforts through social media outreach to excite the Indian audience to start reserving their cruise vacations in Singapore.

We can look forward to cruise agents re-starting their marketing activities for cruise holidays with pre-and post-cruise experience packaging. STB is ready to support the cruise agents with the Cruise Development Fund scheme to augment their marketing efforts.

Q. Like all destinations impacted by the pandemic, tourist arrivals from India to Singapore were at an all-time low last year. With the new Vaccinated Travel Framework, how do you envisage the recovery process?

Under the newly announced Vaccinated Travel Framework (VTF), with effect from April 1, 2022, fully vaccinated travellers from India can visit Singapore quarantine-free. They will no longer need to apply for entry approval via the Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP) which was a requirement of the previous Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) arrangement. They may take any fight to travel to Singapore. This applies to children under the age of 12 years old. They will also no longer need to undertake an on-arrival Covid-19 test in Singapore. These are positive developments in Singapore’s progressive borders re-opening measures which will be a boost to welcoming back Indian visitors to Singapore.

Specifically, for Meeting and Incentive (M&I) trips, the doing away with the on-arrival test will have a significant impact for such group movements from India. We are already receiving many enquiries to reconsider Singapore as a potential destination, ranging from small, medium to large M&I groups, some as early as May 2022.

Singapore has added new attractions like the Museum of Ice Cream, open-air panoramic SkyHelix Sentosa and Adventure HQ – Singapore’s first and largest multi-installation adventure centre. The hosting of Formula One’s only night race will return to Singapore from September 29 to October 2, 2022, the longest contract renewal of seven years will generate significant benefits and global branding value for Singapore

We are conscious that the revival of tourism cannot happen in a vacuum. Apart from safety and ease of travel and experience considerations, travellers will also be looking out for the integrated manner in which travel service providers operate. Tourism recovery may start slow and pick up momentum in the coming months. We are confident that given the diverse re-imagined experiences available in Singapore, Indian visitors will feel welcomed back to the city and enjoy their holidays.

Q. Singapore had ambitious plans for resort, hotel and theme park development. Have the timelines being pushed ahead? Your comments

While the pandemic was a challenging period for all of us, I am impressed by the sheer resilience of the travel and tourism industry and how it kept the momentum even during harsh times. During the pandemic, our stakeholders used this period to adapt and innovate to reimagine the future of travel by introducing novel experiences, harnessing technology for low contact customer service and ensuring heightened safety and hygiene standards. We are also embracing wellness and sustainability in our tourism development roadmap.

The delay in the expansion plans for Singapore’s integrated resorts and Mandai park remains to be seen as pandemic-related disruptions in the construction industry are being assessed.

But we are committed to building a robust pipeline of exciting experiencing and product offerings. In fact, in 2021, several new hotels with unique lifestyle concepts opened in Singapore, such as The Clan, Maxwell Reserve and Oasia Resort Sentosa. These additions complement existing hotels that used this period to refresh or rebrand their properties, such as Hilton Singapore (reopening as voco Orchard Singapore in 2022) and Mandarin Orchard (reopening as Hilton Singapore Orchard in 2022).

Existing attractions used this period to refresh their offerings or introduce new ones, which included Haw Par Villa’s Hell’s Museum, the Brickosaurs World at Singapore Zoo and River Wonders, ArtScience Museum’s new permanent Virtual Reality (VR) gallery, Madame Tussaud’s Singapore: Marvel Universe display, National Orchid Garden’s Tropical Montane Orchidetum, and Gardens by the Bay’s Orchid Haven.

There is also a series of new attractions in the pipeline. For example, the Slingshot – Asia’s tallest slingshot ride at Clarke Quay, the Jewel-rassic Quest, a ticketed AR experience at Jewel Changi Airport’s Canopy Park and Shiseido Forest Valley, is slated to launch in 2022. Using immersive AR technology, users will be transported 89 million years into the past on a quest, where they will complete activities and interact with dinosaurs along the way.

 

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