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Singapore Tourism Board: Bollywood movies have entrenched Singapore as a must-visit destination among Indian travelers

Singapore Tourism Board: 'Indian travelers are becoming more experiential, technologically-savvy'

Singapore is one of the most popular places among Indian tourists, helped by links between the two countries coming from entertainment and fashion.

From being portrayed in Bollywood movies, to hosting a recent fashion show by Indian fashion designer Manish Malhotra, Singapore maintains its Indian connection.

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) recently announced that India, for the first time, has moved up from fourth to third place (ahead of Malaysia but behind China and Indonesia) as a visitor arrival (VA) source market for Singapore. It recorded the highest growth rate of 16% among all markets.

The Drum spoke with G.B Srithar, regional director, SAMEA, Singapore Tourism Board to find out how the investments and marketing strategy of STB has changed as a result of this growth in tourism arrivals and receipts in India.

He says: "Indian consumer is becoming more technologically-savvy, well-informed and consequently more discerning about travel choices. Marketing efforts by Singapore Tourism Board and our industry stakeholders have evolved over the years in terms of approach and scope.

"2017 had been another record year of tourism into Singapore from India. STB India seeks to build on the momentum of good outbound travel projections from India and entice more visitors to travel to Singapore and experience our diverse offerings.

"We have adopted three strategic thrusts for the marketing of Singapore: telling a great Singapore story, targeting the right fans and enhancing our delivery of our tourism messages to them."

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Economic Development Board (EDB) recently joined forces on new branding to combine efforts in promoting the country to both tourists and businesses. The united front aims to use the power of the two government units to work as one brand, creating more fire power under a unified message of ‘Passion Made Possible’.

According to Srithar, Passion Made Possible is a brand shaped with an inside-out approach, drawing on qualities that define Singapore. He continues: “Rather than a descriptive brand, we are now putting forward a brand that captures the spirit of Singapore – a place shaped by its people and their passions, and driven by their passion to constantly pursue new possibilities for progress.”

As to what STB plans to do to attract more Indian visitors, Srithar says: "2017 was a landmark year for STB as we unveiled a unified brand to global audiences. In India, we launched the brand at the ‘Singapore Weekender’ at Sassoon Docks, Mumbai in association with St+Art India Foundation and Impresario Group. It was a busy and rewarding year of engaging travelers with strategic associations with a major Bollywood movie ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’, tie up with a TV show called “Singapore Insider” with internet-entrepreneur Ankur Warikoo on NDTV Good Times, organizing the India Cruise Forum, participating in travel trade events such as SATTE, joint marketing promotions with PAN-India and regional travel trade partners, and launch of a comprehensive Vegetarian Food Guide.

"Specific to India, our over-arching theme for the year 2018 to drive visitor-ship to Singapore is “With passion, forging new possibilities”. We have a three-pronged approach: focus on deepening and expanding our partnership with our travel trade partners and seek out new non-travel trade collaborations; promoting our new brand “Passion Made Possible” creatively and effectively; and continue to showcase Singapore’s diverse offerings and connect with key audience segments including families, early and established careers, cruise travelers, meetings and incentive travelers.

With several long weekends coming up in the year, Singapore seeks to entice the travelers over for short holiday escapades. 2018 is dotted with events in Singapore like the second edition of the Michelin Street Food Festival from March 29 to April 1, the 22nd edition of the World Gourmet Summit from April 2 to 29, Singapore Grand Prix from September 7 to 16, Deepavali on Nov 6, and rounding off with Christmas and New Year celebrations. With so many holiday possibilities in store and opportunities to indulge in one’s passions, Singapore is set to continue attracting many travel audiences from India in 2018."

Srithar further emphasizes that STB will further entrench Singapore as a family destination in India, especially during summer (April to July) and winter vacations (September to December) coinciding with school holidays to cater to the different India n tourists.

According to Srithar, India is STB's largest source market for cruising. He says: "We continue to promote and upgrade our existing tourism offerings for our visitors. Indian travelers are becoming more experiential, technologically-savvy and consequently more aware of the options available. Whether one is an explorer, foodie or a collector, Singapore has a wide selection of leisure & lifestyle options all within easy reach.

"Indians in their early careers (25-34 years old), are also an important target segment for us as they tend to travel all year-round and leverage long weekends. These travelers are more adventurous and seek lifestyle experiences. We encourage our Indian travelers to explore Singapore's bustling retail, dining and nightlife offerings embark on the guided tours of our vibrant precincts, celebrate with their families on a cruise among others."

Associating with movies and sports events is the latest marketing trend among tourism board. VisitBritain and Barclays Premier League extended their five-year partnership to 2016. STB also inked a strategic partnership with Paytm to engage with Indian travellers. STB also as Srithar earlier mentioned, partnered with 'Badrinath Ki Dulhania' and 'Dear Zindagi'.

Whether the strategy has worked for STB, he says: "Singapore continues to be a great place for filming Bollywood movies and TV shows in India. Movies play a major role in shaping people’s perceptions of the places featured. Over the past few decades, Bollywood movies have helped build an emotive connect among the Indian audiences with Singapore.

"We were happy to associate with two major movie productions in 2017, ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’ and ‘Dear Zindagi’. In the past as well, Singapore had been featured in movies like Krissh, De Dena Dan, Pyaar Impossible, Biwi No. 1. From the Merlion to Marina Bay, familiar local landmarks have helped promote destination Singapore on the big screen. These movies have helped entrench Singapore as a must-visit and repeat destination among the Indian travelers.

"STB will continue seeking out meaningful movie collaborations. To reinforce Singapore’s positioning as a great lifestyle destination, we also encourage Indian visitors to not just attend sporting events in Singapore like WTA Finals, Singapore Grand Prix, HSBC World Rugby Sevens and HSBC Women’s Championship but also indulge in various electrifying and exciting experiences of world-class entertainment, nightlife, dining, shopping and more. These events attract visitors from across the world and showcases Singapore as a well-rounded, active, and exciting tourism destination."

Integration of bloggers and social media influencers has become a big trend in marketing. Srithar explains how STB integrates bloggers in its campaign. He says: "We continue to invite blogger and influencer fraternity to Singapore for familiarization trips where they get to experience the latest offerings of the city. They are also an integral part of our storytelling approach where we invite them to try out some of the local experiences in their own city, be it a mixology master class, a food collaboration or art workshop with Singapore creative talents to showcase Singapore as a place where passions meet and possibilities happen and Singapore can enable their passions to be what they want to be."

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