For GB Srithar, Regional Director (India, Middle East, South Asia), Singapore Tourism Board, the immediate task is to chart the recovery of tourism post the COVID-19 pandemic, even as he keeps up a high volume of brand collaborations that bring Singapore Tourism closer to the Indian traveller. Here, the ace marketer who earlier functioned as a Human Resource professional, talks of his extensive work in the India market and his belief that getting the right, motivated people on the job always produces great results
More than 10 years in the hot seat, managing the Singapore Tourism Board across regions… what would you call the high points of your own tenure at STB and also the brand’s high points?
Having worked with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) for more than two decades, I am happy to be working in India on and off since 2010. My varied work stints helped me craft certain core tourism developmental strategies, build and nurture the strengths of people, foster deeper travel trade relationships and engage consumers’ hearts and minds through creative initiatives.
Since our brand campaign ‘Passion Made Possible’ was launched in 2017, one important step my team and I have undertaken is to pivot towards creative brand collaborations that bring Singapore Tourism across in various perspectives. Unique collaborations such as the ones with Dharma Productions, Ola, Paytm, Tripoto, Thomas Cook, VOOT, Vh1 India, St+art India Foundation and Zomato have helped showcase the diverse offerings of Singapore. Our most recent projects include a four-webisode collaboration with BookMyShow and being the Country Partner with NH7 Weekender Music Festival. In the important MICE and cruise sectors, we work closely with the trade fraternity to retain Singapore as an ideal destination for meetings, incentive travel and cruise holidays.
INTO THE HEART OF INDIA
• Building strong and meaningful relationships with the travel trade across India, Srithar considers his associates ‘not just trade partners, but partner-friends’
• On the consumer engagement front, Indian travellers are high priority for Srithar. Proof lies in his creative marketing work with multiple brand partners on a pan-India basis, even projects reaching out to regional audiences in their vernacular languages.
Tell us about your recent collaboration with BookMyShow to launch the consumer engagement initiative ‘My Singapore Connect’. How will it help engage travel enthusiasts in India?
Travel has taken a major hit during the pandemic and it may take a while for recovery. However, we believe that it is important to continue engaging the Indian consumers and keep Singapore close to their hearts and minds. Therefore, we collaborated with BookMyShow for the ‘My Singapore Connect - Where Passions Meet’ initiative. The series celebrates creativity between renowned artistes from both the countries. Each episode has been headlined by an Indian artiste in an engaging conversation with their Singaporean counterpart, giving consumers a rare opportunity to see a different side of them as they share stories of their passion for their respective crafts.
What are some of the other initiatives undertaken by STB in the India market? What are the challenges you face?
Tourism remains an important contributor to the Singapore economy and we remain confident in its long-term prospects. STB and our tourism partners have been leveraging technology and the digital medium for consumer outreach since the start of the pandemic as it is important to continue engaging with them and keep Singapore close to their hearts and minds. Earlier in May, we had partnered with Zomato for a digital initiative ‘Zomaland@home’ which featured renowned artistes from both India and Singapore. STB was among the first National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) to stage an elaborate consumer engagement event in India, digitally, in partnership with Zomato, during the COVID-19 situation. We had also partnered with one of India’s largest social travel platforms Tripoto for a microsite which serves as a one-stop guide for Indian travellers with content that encourages them to ‘Rediscover Now, Travel Later’ to Singapore. In September, STB was the exclusive destination partner for the Windmill Festival 2020, a virtual event targeted at the family segment, wherein we created a Singapore Experience Zone, allowing children and parents alike to enjoy curated Singapore-themed experiences from the comfort of their homes.
We will soon launch an influencer campaign ‘Singapore thru Passionistas’ Eyes’ with renowned social media influencers to further amplify our brand messaging among our target audiences in India.
Singapore’s renowned rapper Yung Raja will be performing via a new music video shot entirely in various locales in Singapore, taking the audience through his music journey and connection with the places close to his heart.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge that Singapore Tourism has faced in its 56-year history. Singapore is fortunate to have the capacity and resources to manage the pandemic in a robust manner and we have made good progress. The majority of the economy has re-opened since Singapore entered the second phase of ‘A Safe Singapore’ on June 19, 2020. Singapore is ranked by Deep Knowledge Centre, an independent think tank body, as the fourth safest country in the world for COVID-19. This is a mark of assurance that Singapore is doing things right. We remain committed to our recovery efforts, as well as building capabilities for the future. This is to ensure that Singapore can emerge stronger from the crisis as a top destination when international travel resumes.
What is a motto you live by as a marketer and an individual?
Stemming from an earlier stint in my career as a human resource professional, I am a firm believer that people matter the most and getting the right, motivated team brings the relevant results. Chief among the high points in my tenure here is that I enjoy the privilege of leading a great team. By building on their strengths and commitment to quality work and fostering deep travel trade relationships, we continue to bring Singapore even closer to the hearts and minds of Indian consumers.
As a marketer, based on our agile, bold, creative and effective destination marketing approach, I frame Singapore Tourism promotions into a two-pronged strategy: strong travel trade engagement and innovative, engaging consumer outreach projects. I am pleased that under the ‘Growing Connections, Achieving Together’ trade engagement theme, we have built strong, deep, expansive and meaningful relationships with the travel trade across India. They have been so crucial in bringing relevant destination messages to the travellers. They are not just trade partners, but our partner-friends.
On the consumer engagement front, it is about growing our connections with Indian travellers. Singapore has much to offer to the different audience segments of family, working millennials, BTMICE and cruise travellers. We have done creative marketing work with many brand partners on a pan-India basis as well as projects reaching out to regional audiences in their vernacular languages. At the very core, our work is about building connections, enabling holidays, conversations and celebrations.
What next from Singapore Tourism Board? What are your plans with regard to India?
India retained its third position with 1.42 million visitors, with a 2.0% drop, after China and Indonesia, as a Visitor Arrival source market for Singapore in 2019. As travel restarts, with relevant safety measures and protocols met, India will be an important market to us. In this COVID-present situation, our work will be structured around the theme of ‘Charting our Pathways to Tourism Recovery’. We will continue to explore innovative and unique initiatives to bring engaging content to the audiences in a creative way and showcase Singapore’s diverse offerings and our brand identity to our audience.