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Singapore launches S$45m marketing blitz to boost domestic tourism

SINGAPORE is looking to the domestic-tourism market to drive recovery in its hard-hit tourism sector, as the coronavirus pandemic choked the lifeblood of international visitors.

Some S$45 million has been set aside for a nine-month campaign touting “mini-holidays” for locals - including in districts such as Chinatown, Little India, Orchard Road and Sentosa.

The “SingapoRediscovers” marketing push, which was unveiled on Wednesday, is the first concerted effort focusing on local visitors.

Though Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Keith Tan acknowledged that this consumer segment was not previously tracked in depth, the STB, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and Sentosa Development Corp are now wooing residents’ dollars under this drive.

Promotions for attractions, tours and hotel stays are available through partnerships with groups such as the Singapore Retailers Association, Singapore Hotel Association, Association of Singapore Attractions and Chinatown Business Association.

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The Federation of Merchants’ Associations, Singapore, Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore and Society of Tourist Guides (Singapore) have been roped in to develop tours and itineraries in heartland and other local neighbourhoods.

On the food and beverage (F&B) front, ESG and reservation website Chope are dangling off-peak and other deals; groups such as the Restaurant Association of Singapore and Singapore Cocktail Bar Association will lead “#Hi5SG” dining promotions - both from August.

Tentpole events such as the Singapore Food Festival in August and the Great Singapore Sale in September have also gone virtual, with some offline components.

STB's Mr Tan told reporters: “There is no baseline on the sort of spending we can get from domestic tourism. We hope, obviously, to stimulate some expenditure in F&B and retail and consumption and hotels, but we have not set for ourselves firm targets.”

Still, he indicated that the aim was to divert some of the more than S$34 billion that Singaporeans spent on overseas travel in 2018 into local tourism and lifestyle businesses.

The turn to a domestic lifeline for Singapore’s travel-dependent tourism industry comes on the heels of a 39 per cent year-on-year decline in tourism receipts in the first quarter of 2020 to S$4 billion, coinciding with the early months of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

Even by that point, hotel room revenue was down by 31 per cent, and spending on shopping fell by 52 per cent.  “And we expect further declines in the months ahead”, Mr Tan told reporters.

Ted Tan, deputy chief executive of ESG, noted in a statement that local F&B and retail businesses continue to face challenges - despite the reopening of the Singapore economy after a two-month “circuit breaker”, a partial lockdown imposed in April and May to contain the spread of the virus.

“Aside from the targeted measures rolled out earlier to help these sectors address immediate needs, we hope that they can create new revenue streams and encourage increased consumer spending through exciting promotional programmes,” he said.

“We will be working closely with industry partners to maximise our efforts and reach.”

The latest campaign has precedents in earlier crisis-era initiatives: the Step Out Singapore and Singapore Roars drives, after the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic in 2003, and Building on Opportunities to Strengthen Tourism after the global financial crisis in 2009.

SingapoRediscovers will spread its budget across direct marketing for attractions, grants under schemes such as the Marketing Partnership Programme and the SG Stories Content Fund, and partnerships with industry partners, such as airlines, and platforms Klook and Expedia.

Meanwhile, the STB also urged industry transformation in the tourism sector, since it does not expect “business as usual” to return even after border curbs lift and international travel resumes.

For instance, the agency has tied up with the Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers to develop plans for safe business events.

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