Tourism players hopeful as new offerings are rolled out

New tours, packages, promotions make Singapore more attractive as it opens up to more VTL travellers

Zipping around town in a vintage Vespa sidecar; yacht trips to Lazarus Island; and walking tours of neighbourhoods such as Balestier and Jalan Besar.

Before Covid-19, these activities were rarely on the radar of leisure tourists, many of whom made a whirlwind two- to three-day stop in Singapore en route to Australia or other parts of South-east Asia.

But tourism players believe the past 18 months spent developing new tours, hotel packages and promotions for a discerning local market have strengthened Singapore's value proposition as the country opens up to more international visitors under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme.

The scheme launched last month allows quarantine-free travel for visitors from 11 countries, including Britain and the United States.

The first wave of VTL travellers who arrived last week comprised mostly long-term residents here or those visiting family and friends.

Still, industry players hope more leisure travellers will be arriving in the coming months and have plans to woo them.

Some industry players such as Mr Toh Thiam Wei, founder of walking tour company Indie Singapore, have already seen positive signs.

He has had "a handful" of bookings from VTL travellers from Germany visiting family here, with about half of them booking new tours developed for the local market.

These include a Traditional Taste food tour in Chinatown where participants get to sample local food.

Professor Abhishek Bhati, who is the campus dean at James Cook University in Singapore and specialises in tourism research, said Singapore must continue to invest in tourism infrastructure such as accommodation, attractions, recreational sites and entertainment precincts.

One such site is the upcoming Mandai Wildlife Reserve, which will house a total of five wildlife parks, including the Singapore Zoo and River Wonders - as the River Safari has been renamed.

Although development has been hampered by the pandemic, parks operator Mandai Wildlife Group said it is aiming to open a new bird park called Bird Paradise by next year and a new Rainforest Wild park by 2024.

Gardens by the Bay has seen visitorship halved by the pandemic, but it has continued to roll out new displays, such as the current Tulipmania, which also showcases the culture and architecture of Central Asia.

Director of business development Ong Kian Ann said: "Even when overseas travel was at a standstill, Gardens by the Bay continued with a series of signature events and popular floral displays to serve the local community.

"We believe our approach of making the Gardens an attractive destination for all will now serve us well when it comes to VTL travellers."

Hotel groups, too, are rolling out promotions to woo VTL guests.

The Fullerton Hotel Singapore and The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, for instance, last month launched an Experience Fullerton Hospitality package that includes $50 in dining credit and a limousine transfer for guests who stay three nights or more.

Mr Steven Ler, president of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, said: "There has been a lot of creativity and product innovation in the tourism industry. This is valuable content for us to market Singapore overseas and can be readily deployed to woo tourists."