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TD Conversations: GB Srithar, Regional Director (India, Middle East, and South Asia), Singapore Tourism Board

We catch up with him at the start of the month-long Singapore Food Festival to find out more about the tourism board’s upcoming initiatives to enjoy continued engagement with travel partners and travellers alike.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is the lead development agency for tourism, one of Singapore’s key economic sectors. Together with industry partners and the community, they shape a dynamic Singapore tourism landscape, bringing the ‘Passion Made Possible’ brand to life by differentiating Singapore as a vibrant destination that inspires people to share and deepen their passions.

As Regional Director (India, Middle East, and South Asia), Singapore Tourism Board, some of GB Srithar’s key responsibilities are to oversee the STB’s regional marketing, tourism developmental and trade partnership work in India, South Asia & Middle East, including leisure marketing, MICE, cruise and school trips promotions. He also works closely with travel trade and non-trade partners to promote Singapore as the destination of choice among Indian travellers. He has been engaged in Singapore tourism promotional work in India for more than a decade now.

singapore tourism board, GT Srithar, Singapore tourism
“STB India has been constantly engaging our partners to show our solidarity and to discuss how to make travel better, safer, and more seamless once travel resumes. We ramped up engagement efforts by adopting the #UnitedWeStand solidarity call with the travel trade through our regular and consistent communication in the form of virtual platforms, e-newsletters, videos, and industry update sessions.” – GB Srithar, Regional Director (India, Middle East, and South Asia), Singapore Tourism Board.

Under his leadership, some major and interesting initiatives have been undertaken by the tourism board in the Indian market, such as Bollywood collaborations (with Dharma Productions, Red Chillies Entertainment), musical collaboration with Indian maestro Ilaiyaraaja, collaboration with Vh1 India for a music video titled ‘Unstoppable’ which featured international and local artists, marketing tie-ups with leading brands like Ola and Paytm, launch of the brand campaign ‘Passion Made Possible’ with an experiential event called the Singapore Weekender which had artists from Singapore collaborating with their Indian counterparts and showcasing their talents in India, collaboration with Zomato for Zomaland Season 2, etc.

We talked to him about innovating to deal with limitations created by the pandemic, and STB’s long-term plans for promoting travel to the country. Excerpts from the interview…

How do you plan to leverage online participation to create interest in the Singapore Food Festival this year?

The Singapore Food Festival (SFF) returns for its 28th edition with the theme ‘Savour Singapore in Every Bite’ and has gone hybrid for the first time and doubled in scale – inviting local and international foodies to dive into Singapore’s rich culinary landscape and rediscover the love for food. SFF 2021 honours generations of food heritage and showcases culinary creations that push the envelope on Singaporean cuisine. It celebrates Singapore flavours, amazing talents and the rich depth of our culinary past and future. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has been active and constantly engaging with its consumers since the beginning of the pandemic by leveraging technology and virtual mediums to come up with innovative and interesting initiatives. Held concurrently with the SFF in Singapore from August 27 to September 12, 2021, the Indian edition of the SFF will invite food lovers to dive into Singapore’s rich culinary landscape via a hybrid line-up of virtual as well as live events and activities at Foodhall India stores across the country. It will be a month and a half long campaign with on-ground as well as digital activations and promotions of Singaporean food and products. We will be organising hybrid activations and contests with consumers, media, and influencers for amplification. We have roped in renowned chefs from India and Singapore to be a part of this campaign in the Indian market. This includes a virtual masterclass by the acclaimed Chef Haikal Johari of the Michelin-starred restaurant Alma by Juan Amador. During this month-long celebration, customers can also pick up Singaporean recipe ingredient boxes specially curated by Indian Chef Anahita Dhondy.

Ingredient boxes that will help to bring the tastes of Singapore to Indian homes.
Ingredient boxes that will help to bring the tastes of Singapore to Indian homes.

In addition to the collaboration with Foodhall, foodies can also indulge in the SFF celebrations at New Delhi-based Singaporean street food restaurant Mai Bao. The chefs at Mai Bao have come up with a specially curated menu of traditional Singaporean dishes.

 Renowned chefs from India and Singapore will be a part of this campaign in the Indian market. This includes a virtual masterclass by the acclaimed Chef Haikal Johari of the Michelin-starred restaurant Alma by Juan Amador.
Renowned chefs from India and Singapore will be a part of this campaign in the Indian market. This includes a virtual masterclass by the acclaimed Chef Haikal Johari of the Michelin-starred restaurant Alma by Juan Amador.

What other initiatives does the Singapore Tourism Board have in the pipeline to engage Indian travellers?

Over the past year, the STB has entered into creative virtual partnerships with many famous brands such as Zomato, BookMyShow, Tripoto, National Geographic India, NH7 Weekender, and St+art India Foundation. Many of these collaborations had featured Indian talents working with Singaporean artists to showcase their passions and present different facets of Singapore through engaging storytelling and innovative virtual experiences. In our effort to reach our younger audiences, the STB along with Voot Kids and Green Gold Animation recently launched a digital series that takes audiences on a virtual adventure in Singapore with the iconic Indian comic character, Chhota Bheem. India, prior to the onset of Covid-19, was Singapore’s third-largest visitor source market. Leisure, cruise and MICE travellers from India considered Singapore as a must-visit destination.

It is important we stay engaged and connect with our audiences in creative and meaningful ways. We had stepped up digital marketing efforts to reach out to Indian consumers since mid-2020. We continue to develop and bring forth hybrid and virtual experiences of Singapore through technology to communicate different stories, relevant to our audiences.

How is the food festival going to take place on the ground in Singapore itself? What precautions are being taken to ensure safety?

The Singapore Food Festival (SFF) includes collaborations with partners such as V-ZUG, WellSpent at Sunrice and CapitaLand to bring several enriching workshops demonstrating exclusive SFF dishes. Each class will take approximately one to two hours filled with local heritage bites such as Ang Ku Kueh (a glutinous rice pastry) and Siew Mai (meat dumplings). The SFF events will require Safe Entry check-in via the TraceTogether app. Participants will be reminded to practice good hygiene practices such as washing hands frequently and use of sanitisers. Cleaning and disinfection will be done frequently in accordance with The National Environment Agency’s (NEA) guidelines. We have made it mandatory for all participants to wear a mask during any of the festival activities. Diners may remove their masks during meals but must put them back on after.

Are there any new properties/activity centres being developed in Sg to attract tourists once things open up properly?

Singapore has leveraged the months of lockdowns to reimagine tourism, refresh and launch new offerings that will delight visitors when they return. The Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC), a popular US-based attraction, has opened its first ever international location outside of the US in Singapore, in August 2021. Other attractions that are up and coming include: The Slingshot – Asia’s tallest slingshot – a new thrill ride concept opening later this year at Clarke Quay, as well as SkyHelix Sentosa, Singapore’s first open-air panoramic attraction that allows visitors scenic views of Sentosa and our Southern Waterfront, slated to open in 2022.

 The stunning Singapore skyline is familiar to most Indians, thanks to film shoots, travel shows, creative collaborations, and aggressive promotion as the perfect tourist destination. Image: Shutterstock/travelwild.
The stunning Singapore skyline is familiar to most Indians, thanks to film shoots, travel shows, creative collaborations, and aggressive promotion as the perfect tourist destination. Image: Shutterstock/travelwild.

Please elaborate on collaborations with Indian hospitality majors and tour operators that will help build the post-pandemic travel business between India and Singapore.

The travel trade fraternity is one of the key stakeholders for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and we share a deep and strong relation with them. We have always had an active and consistent outreach with our travel trade partner friends through roadshows, product update sessions, newsletters, etc. Since Covid-19, STB India has been constantly engaging our partners to show our solidarity and to discuss how to make travel better, safer, and more seamless once travel resumes. We ramped up engagement efforts by adopting the #UnitedWeStand solidarity call with the travel trade through our regular and consistent communication in the form of virtual platforms, e-newsletters, videos, and industry update sessions. We were one of the first NTOs to introduce a WhatsApp business account in India to disseminate updates and information on Destination Singapore in a more direct, swift, and timely manner.

The STB most recently took its Indian travel partners on an immersive virtual tour of Singapore that was filled with fun and diverse experiences, ranging from a wildlife tour up close with animals to a mixology masterclass. More than 200 travel trade partners came together to experience Singapore virtually during the two-day event held in July.

The STB has also embarked on marketing partnerships with our key partners such as SOTC and Thomas Cook to continue sustaining destination awareness of Singapore among Indian audiences. With Thomas Cook, we developed a ‘Singapore Escapade’ online board game which consumers can play to learn bits of trivia about Singapore and stand to walk away with prizes. With SOTC, we worked with CurlyTales, a popular lifestyle and travel platform, on a campaign encouraging visitors to reminisce about their trips to Singapore, as well as showcasing new experiences available in the country.

When the time is right, we intend to engage in interesting and successful partnerships with our partner-friends in the travel trade and hospitality industry to promote travel to Singapore.

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