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Sentosa Builds Local Love As A Fun, Vibrant Tourism Hub

Having built a domestic market that made up a quarter of its total visitorship of 19 million pre-Covid, Sentosa Development Corporation and its partners are now pulling together to entice the only market segment available to them right now and to grow it.

Sharing about the changed environment in which it now operates, the panel that gathered during the WiT Experience Week’s fourth day at Marina Bay Sands reported success since the joint push by SDC and Singapore Tourism Board in July to bolster the domestic tourism market with their S$45 million campaign.

“Sentosa has been almost forgotten by Singaporeans, but now is an opportunity for Singaporeans to get an overseas experience in Singapore,” said Chin Sak Hin, assistant chief executive and chief financial officer of Sentosa Development Corporation. 

With tweaks in its existing offerings and the introduction of innovative products slanted towards the needs of locals, Sentosa has seen a 65% increase year-on-year, from July to August.

“We had to understand what the market wanted going forward, and then create a concept and ideas that worked within the guidelines,” said Gavin Weightman, general manager of Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa.

Weightman’s team pow-wowed and came up with daycation packages or “paradise in a day” which have sold out since its launch in July. An adult’s day pass is priced at $75 which includes $50 of dining credits. The pass gives guests access to a sunbed, beach and sea sport activities, towel service and use of changing rooms and complimentary wireless Internet access. Dining credits can be used by the pool.

The team is continuing to refine its aimed-at-locals products to include weekend dining packages for guests to enjoy barbeques and sunsets, beachside.

Such day packages are also attracting executives, fast becoming used to the idea of nomadic working and the concept of workcations. Some of been seen lounging on the beach, and then later putting on a shirt, pulling out laptops and participating in Zoom calls, said Andrew Ing, chief operating officer of The Lo & Behold Group that runs the Tanjong Beach Club.

Seeing this new market segment develop, Ing is now opening earlier and closing later on weekdays.

Ing said his team has put in structures and processes to keep crowds at bay and to stay within regulatory guidelines for safe distancing. “Everyone now has to have a seat. This way, we actually have been able to deliver better service as well,” said Ing.

For Madame Tussaud, an attraction that was “heavily reliant on tourists” – 90 percent of its guests were international visitors – business “dropped off the cliff” when Covid hit. “We needed to take agile actions,” said Alex Ward, general manager, Madame Tussaud Singapore.

Pricing became its first tool as it just needed to “hit the button, get the locals, and create critical awareness amongst Singaporeans”. “Not a lot of people in Singapore know about us,” said Ward.

But when it became clear that the length of this crisis was indefinite, Ward knew using price as its only line of defense against this pandemic was not sustainable. His team then began to engage in product innovation and started curating virtual tours and educational tours that have been popular with school groups. It has also since created a behind-the-scenes tour to satisfy people’s curiosity about how the wax figures are done.

Chin is eager to see even more collaborative efforts amongst all Sentosa operators. “We need to work together, come up with more cross bundling of products and themed holidays,” said Chin.

He also suggested Sentosa could sell itself with the Southern Islands which is “more rustic” and offers an alternative view of Singapore.

The panel’s discussion also moved to the MICE market – the idea of creating Sentosa as a travel bubble for the MICE segment has already been mooted. Pointing to the possibility of creating hybrid events much like the WiT Experience Week, Weightman feels Sentosa, having venues that are “not confined to four walls”, offer the outdoors that speak of fresh air, natural sunlight, could make an ideal location to host hybrid events.

“This period has definitely shown me the power of collaboration,” said Ward. He said he has seen different parties – be it competitors, travel agents, even team building companies – pulling limited resources together and doing things that individually would have been difficult to do.

“One of the positives of this Covid crisis is people are more kind and generous with each other. I hope that continues,” said Ing.  

Source : WIT

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