Noted travel writer named tourism board chief

Briton Austin Coates, a novelist and travel writer, was named director of the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board in September 1965, and tasked with attracting more tourists from countries such as the United States.

He had come to Singapore at the end of World War II as an air force officer, and later became an administrator in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.

He was fluent in French and Malay, and spoke some Cantonese and Portuguese. He was also trained in advertising.

A month or so after taking up the job for $2,100 a month, he asked for ideas on how to advertise Singapore.


Austin Coates was an air force officer and a civil servant before he took up full-time writing.

He said: "One of our problems is to try to work out: What is 'the picture' of Singapore?"

Having undergone a period of trial and error, the board was pursuing a line summed up by the words "happy" and "harmony", he added.

Another problem was how to suggest the safety of Singapore in a subtle way, he said.

But he did not stay long with the board, resigning four months later in January 1966.

In a 1971 interview with The New Nation newspaper, he said that he left mainly "because I felt that things should be done on a regional basis. Politically, it wasn't the right moment then".

He later moved to Hong Kong and then Portugal. He died at age 74 in 1997.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'Noted travel writer named tourism board chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe