STB's new strategy - woo travellers with Singapore way of life

As part of its latest strategy to woo travellers, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) wants to champion Singaporeans and the Singapore way of life.

"There is a misunderstanding that we only care about high-end brands, your Louis Vuittons and your Chanels," said STB chief executive Lionel Yeo.

"But we're also very proud of our local designers like Hansel and Ong Shunmugam," he added, naming two well-known local fashion labels.

The Republic is ready to showcase its "authentic" local offerings alongside its glitzy cosmopolitan attractions, he added. This is to appeal to more discerning tourists, and help strengthen Singaporeans' sense of civic pride.

"I think we are at the stage of nation building where we are eager as a people to profile our own creative talents, our own local cultures," he told The Straits Times in his first full-length interview since he assumed the STB post last June.

"There's a lot of potential to tap the energy and creativity of Singaporeans to promote Singapore to the rest of the world."

In the STB's latest international marketing video entitled "Singapore Shiok", locals enjoying local attractions were featured throughout - a departure from the usual ads which focus on foreign tourists.

Outreach programmes and social media efforts are also being planned to get Singaporeans talking about their personal experiences - or what they feel is "shiok" in the country.

The information could potentially be used in future tourism marketing campaigns.

Another key part of this push - where "every Singaporean is a potential tourism ambassador" - is to showcase Singapore talents.

Last month, the STB launched a $5 million Kickstart Fund, to support those with ideas for concepts such as pop-up entertainment, dining, retail or arts events.

STB's regional offices have also been briefed about Singaporean talents and products in creative sectors such as music, design, fashion and the arts. The message is to look out for opportunities to profile and develop them.

The STB's new direction "makes great sense", said Mr Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of California-based Galaviz & Company, which specialises in tourism, casinos and government strategies.

"Tourists across the board are seeking the quintessential authentic Asia experience, so Singapore must now downshift its gears and get back to its cultural roots," he added.

The board's latest drive coincides with projections of moderate growth for the tourism industry, after years of surging, double-digit percentage gains in visitor arrivals and tourism receipts.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said last month that the sector faces land and manpower constraints, as well as fiercer competition from the region.

Mr Yeo, who will address today's Tourism Industry Conference, an annual affair here, at Marina Bay Sands, believes that going local will sharpen Singapore's appeal.

"We have found that more discerning travellers, who are our target audience, actually respond very well to authentic local attractions," he said.

"They know that Singapore is a global city and cosmopolitan, but they also want to know what is of interest to locals, and immerse themselves in a more local experience."

Additional reporting by Melissa Lin