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We remain focused on building the pipeline of visitors from India: Singapore Tourism Board regional director

For the fourth time in a row, Visitors Arrival (VA) from India to Singapore had crossed the 1 million mark

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Sep 19, 2019, 05.25 PM IST|Original: Sep 19, 2019, 05.25 PM IST
Srithar-Profile 2
Visitor arrivals from India to Singapore have been on an uptrend in the past 5 years with a compounded annual growth of 8.8% since 2014.
In 2019, Singapore received about 859,000 visitors from India between January to July and India, for the fourth time in a row, crossed the 1 million mark registering 1.44 million visitors to Singapore in 2018, an increase of 13% as compared to 2017. In an interview to ET, GB Srithar, regional director (India, Middle East & South Asia) at Singapore Tourism Board spoke about Indian visitor arrivals and the growth of MICE tourism from India. Edited excerpts:

How has India performed in terms of overall numbers for Singapore Tourism Board in the first half of this year? What were the numbers like at the same time last year?
For the fourth time in a row, Visitors Arrival (VA) from India to Singapore had crossed the 1 million mark registering 1.44 million in 2018 with an increase of 13% as compared to 2017. And for the second year running, India retained its position as Singapore’s 3rd biggest VA source market, after China and Indonesia. Growth of VA from secondary cities has been robust.

India continues to be the top source market for VA in the cruise segment for Singapore. 160,000 cruise passengers from India sailed out of Singapore’s shores in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 27% from 2017.

In 2019, we have received about 859,000 visitors from India between the periods of January to July.

Overall, visitor arrivals from India to Singapore have been on an uptrend in the past 5 years with a compounded annual growth of 8.8% since 2014.

What was the share of business travel in the overall numbers in the first half of this year? Has that share gone up over the same time last year?
From across the world, we received about 2.9 million BTMICE travellers in 2018 last year, which was an increase of 12% year-on-year. The growth of business travellers from India in 2018 exceeded that.

Singapore’s status as a top MICE city was further reinforced by playing host to notable events such as the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, which was attended by world leaders and global CEOs, and mega Asian technology conference ConnecTechAsia.

Business travelers from India like to explore a destination outside of their work hours and have a deeper dive into the city’s offerings. They look for leisure options to combine with their official visits in order to maximize time. This has led to the rise of a new category – Bleisure travel.

We have observed the rising trend of bleisure travelers opting for short work trips outside India for business and meetings.

We recently organised an eight-city trade engagement roadshow to deepen existing partnerships between STB’s and tourism stakeholders, and foster new ones with the local travel trade fraternity. Such events also give us an opportunity to showcase the various trade and MICE opportunities available in Singapore.

Which are the industries in India contributing to business travel from India?
Global Business Travel Association reveals that India’s annual growth in business travel spends is at 11.4%—the largest rise among the top 15 business travel markets globally. India is now a $30-billion business travel market according to consultancy firm KPMG and expected to triple by 2030.

A burgeoning middle class, fast-moving innovative technologies and millennials entering the workforce are factors driving business travel in India. One upcoming opportunity we see in 2019/20 is the promising growth in spending capacity of the SMEs.

In the past few years, meetings and incentive groups have formed the bulk of Singapore’s business visitors from the India market. A large proportion of the groups are from the IT, pharma, banking & finance and insurance sectors.

Does the board have any targets in terms of boosting overall numbers travel numbers from India in the next few years?
We recognise that market conditions may be challenging, given that the aviation sector has faced quite a few disruptions and the global economic outlook is uncertain.

We remain focused on building the pipeline of visitors from India through our various marketing promotions and trade engagement efforts. We had reached out to our audiences across the country through some regional initiatives such as collaborations with musical maestros from the South India KJ Yesudas and SP Balasubramanium, popular regional television shows Raja Rani and Taarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chasma, etc. We also ventured into the wedding industry by partnering up with WedMeGood, India’s biggest wedding planning portal for a contest-centric campaign.

We also did a major activation in partnership with St+art India Foundation to showcase our brand ‘Passion Made Possible’. The three-day experiential festival called the Singapore Weekender had artists from Singapore such as artists Eugene Soh, Sam Lo, Yok and Sheryo, Yip Yew Chong as well as rapper Yung Raja who were showcasing their talents and passion stories to the Indian audience.

Another interesting collaboration to promote the Passion Made Possible brand was with Vh1 India for a music video titled 'Unstoppable' featuring both Indian and Singaporean talents. The campaign was part of Singapore Tourism Board’s efforts to connect with the discerning and immersive, local experiences-seeking young travellers from India.

For our trade outreach, we did an eight-city product update roadshows themed “Growing Connections, Achieving Together” in July, covering cities such as Hyderabad, Madurai, Trivandrum, Kolkata, Rajkot, Guwahati, Nagpur and Jalandhar, which continue to show potential for growth.

We stepped up our industry development efforts by organising a Hackathon for key Indian Travel Agents in July this year. The Hackathon comprises of a design thinking workshop, networking opportunities and a familiarisation component to expose these agents to new tourism products and experiences in Singapore, such as the Jewel Changi Airport, bar hopping tours, Design Orchard, the Floating Donut cruise, and more. The participating agents will work with us to market refreshed itineraries including these new experiences to Indian consumers.

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