Festival aims to celebrate, revitalise heartland businesses
Public can take open-top buses for tours in heartland, join contests
Open-top buses typically ply routes in the civic district, but come Dec 26, the public will be able to hop on them for tours in the heartland, led by local celebrities.
The inaugural Heartlands Festival will also feature shopping and eating contests, celebrating Singapore's 40,000 heartland merchants, hawkers and wet market stall operators.
The three-month festival seeks to drum up support for heartland businesses, which have taken a beating during the Covid-19 pandemic, and boost the vibrancy of neighbourhood retail areas.
It was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.
At the launch in Bedok, Mr Heng said the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of e-commerce have posed a challenge to heartland businesses by reducing footfall and shifting spending away from bricks-and-mortar shops.
Mr Lai Cheng Yi, centre director of the festival's organiser, the Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore, said that footfall in heartland business areas has decreased by about half amid the pandemic.
He said heartland businesses located closer to the Central Business District experienced an even more drastic fall in customers as more patrons work from home.
Citing the various forms of support the Government has extended to businesses over the past two years, Mr Heng said heartland businesses will have to adapt and transform in order to thrive.
"Digitalisation and business transformation are a continuous journey, and I encourage more of our merchants to explore new ways to grow their business. The Government will walk this journey with you," said Mr Heng.
He was accompanied by Senior Minister of State for National Development and Foreign Affairs Sim Ann, and Minister of State for Trade and Industry and for Culture, Community and Youth Low Yen Ling.
Ms Low said: "We hope the festival will revitalise the important role heartland shopkeepers play in weaving the social fabric of our community life."
Mr Lai said he hoped the festival's online and physical presence would encourage heartland businesses to similarly operate in a hybrid manner.
The festival also encourages businesses to offer e-payment options.
For instance, weekly lucky draws will be held for those who spend a minimum of $10 in a single receipt at heartland businesses.
Customers who transact using e-payments will have their chances at the draw increased.
Mr Lai said he hoped the inaugural festival would inspire neighbourhood merchants to hold similar hybrid events.
"Prior to today's launch, many local precincts remained sceptical of whether events could be held online, especially those promoting heartland businesses," he said.
"We hope local merchant associations will work with town councils to organise smaller events of their own."