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The marcoms sector is producing ‘many opportunities’ – says Singapore Tourism Board CEO

The marketing and communications industry in Singapore is in rude health following the triumphs of 2018 like the Trump-Kim Summit and the release of the movie Crazy Rich Asians, but there is more to come in the future – the Singapore Tourism Board chief executive officer has told Mumbrella.

Speaking about the marcoms triumphs of last year, Keith Tan said the happenings “were not anticipated”, adding: “Nobody could have foreseen that so we can’t rely on such things. Therefore, we continue with our baseline work.”

However, Tan pointed to the upcoming Japanese manga movie Detective Conan: The Fist of the Blue Sapphire being set in Singapore as another possible marketing boon for the country’s profile.

Tan is bullish about the marcoms scene in Singapore

He also highlighted the $9 billion the Lion City will be investing in Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa as another potential shot in the arm for the marketing industry, stating: “I see many opportunities for the marcoms sector there.”

Singapore receives some 18.5 million tourists every year, meaning the sector accounts for 4% of gross domestic product and around 60,000 jobs. However, the average stay for a tourist in the country is just 3.4 days.

Many visitors use the country as a stop-off for a few days before heading off elsewhere in Asia  – due to its aviation hub status. That said, Singapore is the second most-visited destination in the Asia-Pacific after Bangkok.

“We hope to create reasons for people to stay longer,” said Tan, who has only been in the CEO seat for just over six months but in that short time has already visited “key markets in China, Australia, Vietnam, Myanmar and the United States”.

Visitor arrivals and tourism receipts were both up for last year though. The number of people coming to the Lion City grew by 6.2% to 18.5 million and tourism receipts saw 1% growth to $27.1 billion, according to the STB.

There was growth in 14 of Singapore’s top 15 markets for overseas tourists – including the Philippines, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam and Germany.

The volume of visitors from India grew by 18%, while the numbers coming from Indonesia and China grew by 8% and 3% respectively. For 2019, the board forecast further tourism growth of between 1 and 3%.

Asked how long the STB’s ‘Passion made Possible’ marketing campaign would run for and whether it would change course, Tan said the work had not yet run its course. “It has lots of legs to go, but we have no plans about how it may evolve in the future,” he would only say, refusing to be drawn further on the topic.

Tan was speaking to Mumbrella on the sidelines of the STB’s Tourism Industry Conference in Singapore, which was attended by 1,000 delegates – mainly from partner organisations. During the event, the STB announced marketing partnerships with Traveloka and Alibaba.

On the stage, Tan also told the audience that ‘Passion made Possible’ was “not a conventional marketing campaign” and had “made a big difference in profiling Singapore”. He added: “It has inspired many innovative and quirky efforts to showcase Singapore in many cities around the world.

“Since the start of the PMP campaign, we have organised over 30 brand activations globally. We celebrate 54 years as an independent nation this August and we are proud that Singapore has genuinely become a country where passions are made possible.”

Outlining the pride he felt about the campaign featuring chefs, DJs, rappers, graffiti artists and athletes, Tan said: “Their voices add a rich depth and human touch to our marketing efforts by surprising and overturning assumptions that many people have about Singapore.”

In 2017, the STB set up its own in-house Marketing College. Tan claimed this initiative had helped “bring all of us – including my own STB staff – up to speed with the latest trends and tools in the industry”.

Tan himself has always worked as a public servant, with previous roles at the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Trade and Industry. He is also a graduate of Princeton University.

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