Singapore Tourism Board to woo business travellers, families from Malaysia

Tourists gather at Merlion park to take pictures overlooking Marina bay in Singapore on August 11.
Tourists gather at Merlion park to take pictures overlooking Marina bay in Singapore on August 11.PHOTO: AFP

Low-risk travel and ease of arranging trips to local attractions to be used as selling points

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is offering financial support for business travel and promoting the island's child-friendliness to Malaysia in a bid to reverse sliding arrivals and revenue from its northern neighbour.

While overall tourist receipts declined for the first time since 2009 last year, falling by 6.8 per cent to $22 billion, Malaysian spending in the Republic dived by a quarter to just $637 million. Malaysia has long been Singapore's third-largest source of tourists, but with the ringgit depreciating by 20 per cent against the Singapore dollar in the past two years, it could slip behind fourth-placed India.

Indonesian and Chinese tourists remain Singapore's top two visitors by numbers.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY

When you travel with a family it can be very stressful, but Singapore is low-risk. You can decide today and travel tomorrow.

MR EDWARD KOH, Singapore Tourism Board's South-east Asia executive director.

STB South-east Asia executive director Edward Koh acknowledged the link at a press conference yesterday, with arrivals from Malaysia falling by 4 per cent and 5 per cent in 2014 and 2015 respectively, corresponding to the weakening ringgit. But he told reporters the tourism body was prioritising business and family travellers, seen "as bright spots within our visitor segments".

On average, business travellers spend about 50 per cent more than leisure tourists, while it makes sense to target larger family groups instead of solo visits.

"People say Singapore is boring or too sterile but we should leverage on exactly that. When you travel with a family it can be very stressful, but Singapore is low-risk. You can decide today and travel tomorrow," Mr Koh told The Straits Times, referring to the ease of arranging trips to top attractions such as Sentosa Island and major events including the annual Formula One Grand Prix.

STB has rolled out the M&I-STARS programme, offering cash credit to travel agents arranging meetings and incentive travel for groups of 20 or more staying a minimum of two nights. The programme is valid for travel up to the end of next year but must be booked by mid-2017.

The M&I-Rewards scheme, exclusive to Malaysia, offers complimentary visits to the SEA Aquarium, Gardens by the Bay and Singapore River Cruise, or learning tours to places like the NEWater Visitor Centre and Urban Redevelopment Authority City Gallery.

Organisers of business events in Singapore can also apply for grants to offset third-party costs such as marketing, content development and other professional services.

To attract families, the STB is launching its SingaporeJunior programme. As well as a seven-episode Web series debuting this Friday, it has also piloted an education programme with visits to 50 pre- schools in the Klang Valley and East Malaysia to highlight learning experiences at attractions such as the River Safari and Singapore Zoo.


Correction Note: The original story stated that the M&I-STARS programme was just for Malaysia and that it is valid up to the end of next year. STB has clarified that this programme is not only for Malaysia and that it is valid for travel up to the end of next year but must be booked by mid-2017. The M&I-Rewards scheme is exclusive to Malaysia. We are sorry for the errors. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2016, with the headline 'STB to woo business travellers, families from Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe