International travel has taken a huge hit amid the pandemic but the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is not letting up on efforts to lure Indian tourists once flights resume and they are ready to take to the air.
STB is going ahead with a food and music collaboration with Indian food delivery start-up Zomato in a food and entertainment carnival called Zomaland, where restaurants run stalls alongside music and other entertainment.
STB partnered with Zomato for the second season of the carnival last year and is staying the course this year as well.
The festival, called Zomaland@home given the lockdown, is going digital due to the pandemic and will be held from Friday to Sunday and from June 12 to 14. It will include online performances by Singapore artists such as rapper and singer Yung Raja and DJ Luq Here.
Others taking part include chef and food writer Sarah Huang Benjamin, Mad About Sucre owner Eric Chan, and mixologist and founder of the Native cocktail bar Vijay Mudaliar.
Stand-up comedians Rishi Budhrani and Sharul Channa will showcase their passion for stand-up comedy and food in online segments, said STB.
People are now starting to think about travelling again so it is important to keep Singapore high on their minds, “which hopefully we are going to do with Zomaland”, said Mr G.B. Srithar, STB’s regional director for South Asia and the Middle East.
“The demand for travel to Singapore (from India) is very high. All of this will give us a slight edge. We have started the consumer engagement early before other national tourist organisations,” he added.
“Without a doubt India is going to be a key source market for every national tourist organisation.”
He said STB would highlight Singapore’s high hygiene standards and its transparent battle to fight the pandemic.
“The aspiration to travel to Singapore (from India) is high,” noted Mr Srithar.
India grounded all international flights in March as part of a stringent lockdown that also stopped travel within the country. Domestic flights and train services resumed in a limited manner last week but not international flights.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has said international flights would resume before August under certain guidelines, including a 14-day mandatory quarantine for visitors.
India has become an important market for Singapore with 1.42 million Indians visiting last year when 26.29 million Indians travelled abroad. It was the third-largest visitor source market for Singapore that year.
A survey out last month by travel firm Thomas Cook (India) found that a domestic holiday was the first choice of 64 per cent of the 2,500 respondents while 36 per cent favoured an international jaunt, with strong interest for short-haul destinations like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Travel experts said they were banking on tourists choosing destinations like Singapore but remained gloomy about tourism in the short term.
Mr Riaz Munshi, president of the Outbound Tour Operators Association of India and managing director of N.Chirag Travels, said: “We are optimistic that by August/September, (foreign travel) will start at a slow pace and only short-haul destinations will be preferred.
“Singapore and Dubai are very strict about rules and regulations and they have an edge over other destinations. Sri Lanka is also an option because it handled the pandemic nicely.”
But Mr Munshi noted that the way India is managing the virus will also play a part.
The country has 182,681 cases with 5,186 deaths and is now among the top 10 countries affected.
“We don’t know how other countries are going to take it with immigration and quarantine rules,” Mr Munshi noted.
The pandemic has wiped out thoughts of travel in the near term for some people.
“Definitely not this year. Next year, yes, but depends on which country has handled the pandemic better and where chances of a new wave appear lower,” said Mr Ankur Garg, a Delhi-based chartered accountant, who holidays abroad annually with his family.
“We are thinking of summer but honestly there is no point discussing the destination at this time.”