STB hit a bullseye with its ‘Chhota Bheem-Adventures in Singapore’ tie-up with OTT platform Voot Kids and Green Gold Animation. With a clear strategy of drawing upon the pester power of children in their core target group, families with under 12-year-olds, the campaign was poised for success.
“Over 4 million views and counting,” said a very happy GB Srithar, Regional Director, India, Middle East & South Asia, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) speaking to Connected to India from Mumbai over a Zoom chat.
The animated miniseries, launched in three languages - English, Hindi and Tamil - shows Chota Bheem visiting Singapore on the occasion of his 11th birthday, gallivanting around popular destinations across the city-state with his chums.
STB has weathered the COVID storm better than most, and was among the first national tourism organisations to restart operations and consumer communications after the lockdown restrictions were eased from the latter half of 2020, Srithar said.
“On the consumer engagement front, it is to keep Singapore in the minds of Indian audiences and bring Singapore closer to the hearts and minds of Indians even as they stay home and have very few options to travel. It is about keeping Singapore top of mind,” he added.
According to recent surveys, thanks to a rising number of millennials with an increasing disposable income wanting to travel overseas, traffic from India to overseas destinations like Singapore rose 370% between 2005 and 2017.
In addition, tourism related to corporate meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) has been growing by leaps and bounds, with India being the largest source market for the MICE industry in Singapore and Dubai.
At the end of 2019, with 1.41 million visitors from 15 different cities across the nation, India was the third-largest market for Singapore in terms of tourism arrivals and visitor receipts after China and Indonesia.
STB has spared no effort in launching targeted campaigns aimed at Indians, from a digital food festival in collaboration with Zomato last year to the ‘Chhota Bheem’ in Singapore series.
“We measure various key performance indicators across individual projects and the amount of attention it gets; one of the indicators is PR value. Some of them, such as our project with National Geographic and a video project with Book My Show, are numbers-driven. Our most recent initiative is Chhota Bheem,” Srithar said.
“Very simply, Chhota Bheem is our gift to children across India in these tough times. We wanted to thank family audiences, who are a huge target demographic for us, for all their years of visiting Singapore,” he added.
On being asked how STB segmented itself and dealt with competition from Indian regional and other countries’ tourism bodies, Srithar said that they focused their attention on popular targets of families and young working adults in India.
He also said that STB’s strategy was to deepen regional travel engagement across India, taking advantage of growing interest from residents in secondary cities.
“Over the last five to seven years, we have increasingly focused our attention on the young demographic in India, presenting a cool Singapore where you can come and enjoy our passion tribes, like; explorer, foodie, culture shaper, action seeker, socialiser, which is very much in the space of young adults,” he said.
“We have done projects in the past in regional languages and the vernacular. Regional connections are also very important for us. As and when the time is right, we will restart such engagements,” he said.
Srithar, however, cautioned that reopening travel between India and Singapore would be a gradual process in line with the government’s calibrated approach.
“For India, it is a bit too early to resume travel. We need to see how our vaccinated travel arrangements are working with other countries. Learning from that we will be in a better position to decide how we are going to open up to India and Southeast Asian countries in our backyard,” he said.
Singapore is taking a long-term view of the India market despite its borders remaining closed for tourists. The marketing strategy of bringing tourist destinations to the homes of those trapped by the pandemic has become increasingly common, with the tourism boards of South Korea, Switzerland and Monaco also using digital technology and social media for multiple campaigns.
Some other short-haul destinations such as UAE and Maldives also launched influencer campaigns and packages in partnership with airlines to restart international tourism.
Srithar said he was hopeful that when travel and tourism picked up again India would be an important source market.
“Travel and tourism will bounce back at some point, as it has been an important discretionary spend in India, and it is going to grow,” he said, signing off.