SINGAPORE – With overseas travel excluded for most Singaporeans due to the pandemic, more have become tourists in their own countries.
Local tour bookings saw double-digit growth in the first months of this year.
In April, before Covid-19 measures were stepped up during phase two (heightened alert), bookings soared 54% to 54,200 from 35,200 in March.
This followed the uptrend of January’s 17,100 and February’s 22,700, according to data from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
The December school holiday month saw 48,600 bookings – a peak of around 350% from November, when SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) was launched. The vouchers, valued at $ 100, were given to every Singaporean aged 18 and over to spend on stays, tickets to recreational attractions and local tours to boost domestic tourism.
While the SRV program has helped increase demand, the efforts of tour operators to offer innovative products tailored to local taste buds have also borne fruit.
Global travel restrictions limited visitor arrivals to just 2.7 million last year – a far cry from the 19.1 million in 2019 – but tour operators say local demand is gradually increasing.
Ms Lynette Pang, deputy general manager of STB’s marketing group, said: “There has been a very good increase in tours. If you think about it as a Singaporean, doing an organized tour in Singapore is a bit foreign. fact that there is a very strong growth, it is very encouraging. “
She attributed this to industry players who pivoted to offer creative products to attract the local market.
Singapore Sidecars – which offers local tours on vintage Vespa scooters with a small passenger car attached – said tourists made up 70% of its business before the pandemic. Its co-founder, Simon Wong, said, “We didn’t really have to think much about reaching the local market because people just arrived. There were so many tourists visiting Singapore.
After Covid-19 forced the company to completely focus on the local market, it launched a “Crazy Rich Asians Instagram Tour” coupled with a cocktail-making workshop in November of last year.
Earlier this year, it also started allowing customers to take their pets for a ride in the sidecar, and that has taken off in recent weeks, Wong said.
Big Bus and Ducktours, which here operate the famous Ducktours amphibious rides and open-top bus tours, have also had to adapt.
Previously, its open-top double-decker buses ran on tourist routes where tourists could get off and back on at various stops. Now he runs hour-long tours so locals can enjoy Singapore’s sights.
“Locals are not going to use the bus as a transportation system like tourists do,” said Pamela Wee, general manager of the tour operator.
“What the locals want is just to spend that hour sightseeing in Singapore.”
Like many of its peers, Big Bus and Ducktours have also stepped up their offerings related to cultural festivals like the Mid-Autumn Festival and Deepavali, in addition to the usual Christmas campaigns.
It now offers evening walks to catch the lights of Chinatown and Little India, like the popular Christmas illumination of Orchard Road at the end of the year.
Big Bus and Ducktours have around 7,000 bookings per month on average, up from around 3,000 bookings before SRV launched in November last year. He was seeing around 45,000 to 50,000 on average per month before Covid-19.
At the Asia Pacific Breweries factory in Tuas, where the famous Tiger Beer is brewed, used tourists represent 60 percent of visitors to the Tiger Brewery Tour. Today, residents make up about 70 percent.
To attract more Singaporean foodies, he plans to add a meal of beer to the brewery tour. Local favorites like the Chilli Crab will be paired with variations of Tiger Beer like the Citrus Tiger Radler or the lighter Tiger Crystal.
Travel agency Travcoach switched from transporting tourists around the island by bus to organizing a tour for residents of the lesser-known Labrador Park in southwest Singapore in February.
COO Clarence Choo said: “It’s a walk in nature and history, and it’s not that well known to Singaporeans. So I thought it was good to do something. something different and special. “
The tour, which comes with a barbecue seafood buffet dinner, saw more than 5,000 bookings in the first half of this year.
Mr Choo said: “The number of bookings was a pleasant surprise for us. We did not expect such a membership because touring locally is quite unusual for Singaporeans.”