When the Covid-19 pandemic decimated tourist arrivals, local tourism player Tribe, like many others, found itself grappling with the need to entice a home-grown crowd to enjoy tours of a country they were already familiar with.
It decided to create a game tour of Chinatown in which participants would be part of a murder mystery. They had to catch a serial killer by solving a series of puzzles around Chinatown while learning more about the culturally rich district during the two-hour tour.
The novel tour concept, which skilfully wove the history of communities in the area with gameplay, won Tribe an Outstanding Tour Experience award at the Singapore Tourism Awards 2021 yesterday.
Mindful of how it had no time to waste, the team at Tribe took three months to plan and execute Chinatown Murders.
Tribe founder Jason Loe said: "We didn't see the borders opening up any time soon, and tours are not for everyone. So we decided to turn it into a game to make it more interesting, and may appeal to more people."
This year's award ceremony, which was held virtually, recognised the achievements of tourism stakeholders while battling the challenges of Covid-19.
Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, who was the guest of honour, said the 77 finalists had adapted their business models and products to cater to the local audience.
As more countries recognise Covid-19 as an endemic disease, and with higher vaccination rates, travel by the end of the year may be a possibility, he added.
But the tourism sector must keep in mind that it remains vulnerable to future pandemics even as it prepares for recovery, Mr Gan said.
He added: "We must continue to refine the necessary precautions and safeguards that keep visitors safe, while reimagining new ways to keep our tourism sector resilient and maintain Singapore's attractiveness as a destination."
Three new Special awards were also added this year, for Sustainability, Most Exemplary Employer, and Community Care (Business and Individuals).
Mr Keith Tan, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said the Special Award for Sustainability is in line with STB's vision of moving Singapore towards its goals for sustainability and innovation.
The recipients of the award went to Mandai Park Holdings and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).
The other two new awards pay tribute to businesses that showed care towards their staff and the community during the pandemic, or staff who displayed acts of selflessness.
One winner, Mr Ian Soh, director of rooms at the Mandarin Oriental, made sure that every employee involved was familiar with the standard operating procedures for the community care facility managed by the hotel.
Also recognised was Mr Loo Sew Min, 35, a sous chef at RWS, for assisting with operations at community care facilities managed by RWS.
In total, there were 34 winners, comprising individuals and businesses, across 22 award categories, such as Outstanding Attraction Experience and Outstanding Event Venue Experience.
Another winner of the Outstanding Tour Experience category was Xperience DMC, for its Fascinating World of Aviation Plus Exclusive Hangar Tour.
The tour's highlight is a trip to WingsOverAsia, a private aviation facility, where participants learn about private aviation and have a look inside a private hangar.
Ms Jane Goh, the director of Xperience DMC, said the pandemic had completely brought its core business in organising Mice events (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) to a halt.
As a result, the company had to pivot to offering tours to locals, and the idea of a tour in Seletar came to her as she took a bike ride through Seletar Aerospace Park when the circuit breaker ended last year.
She said: "I felt that the area would appeal to our local community, who may not have ventured into this area because of its location or know about the history or stories behind this special place."