Twitch, tech and Korean dramas: Inside Singapore’s tourism recovery

By Sean Nolan

Leaders from the Singapore Tourism Board discuss how the organisation uses technology to raise awareness and support its tourism industry.

People often visit Twitch, a live streaming site, to see the best video game players in the world compete against each other. But in an unlikely turn of events, a Singaporean taxi uncle turned into a Twitch sensation.

Streaming on Twitch is among the innovative ways that Singapore is encouraging tourists to choose its shores as their holiday destination. It is also promoting data analytics among tourism businesses so they can better prepare for visitor arrivals.

Leaders from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) shared how the nation’s hospitality industry is using technology for its pandemic recovery, at their recent Year in Review event.

Streaming Singapore

STB is enabling citizens in different countries to experience Singapore’s attractions through new platforms. It produces a live stream where a taxi driver gives Twitch viewers a virtual tour of the island’s attractions.

Users can interact with the taxi driver to suggest locations for him to visit. This could involve admiring Peranakan architecture, trying out delicious dishes at a hawker centre or visiting locations from the film Crazy Rich Asians.

This creates “the sensation that they too were canvassing the Lion City”, explained Rachel Loh, Senior Vice President, Americas, Singapore Tourism Board.  Twitch is also a new platform for virtual tourism, with STB among the first national tourism organisations to use the site, she added.

The live streams got the attention of Twitch users, with its four streams amassing over 285,000 unique views and over 3,000 total chat messages. This puts the streams in the top one per cent of all content on Twitch, Loh said.

Building awareness with Korean dramas

Encouraging Korean dramas to film in Singapore is another way STB is encouraging foreign audiences to visit. A new cartoon series is also in development, which will feature Singapore’s iconic Merlion and Korea’s tourism mascot.

These initiatives will raise awareness about Singapore, enabling Korean audiences “to experience Singapore from afar” and “help us stay top-of-mind” as international travel resumes, said Markus Tan, Regional Director, North Asia, Singapore Tourism Board.

STB and the Korea Tourism Organisation signed an agreement in November 2021 to work together to promote tourism between the two countries. South Korea is a key market for Singapore tourism, Keith Tan, Chief Executive of STB, said during the announcement.

Small Korean businesses will have new access to STB’s startup programme, which mentors companies involved in tourism technology. These startups are creating services such as contactless transactions, crowd management monitoring, and technology to ensure hygiene.

The four-month programme enables startups to test their tools in Singapore. “In view of the Covid-19 situation, tourism businesses need technological innovations that reduce the friction of travelling,” explained Markus Tan.

Powering tourism with data 

STB is supporting hospitality businesses by helping them view and understand tourism data. The organisation hosts a website where it shares data such as predicted future visitor arrivals and how many rooms are being occupied in hotels.

Analysing this data enables businesses to understand customers and recognise common trends among tourists, explained Ong Huey Hong, Executive Director, Industry Technology Transformation, STB. This in turn will help them plan for the long term, she added.

For example, understanding how long visitors usually stay in Singapore could help tour organisers provide suitable itineraries. Seeing statistics around the age groups of visitors could also help attractions cater their services to specific demographics.

STB introduced a new feature to the platform to allow tourism businesses to share data with one another. If businesses prefer to keep their information private, they can use data analytics tools at no cost without having to share any information.

Supporting the modern day traveller

Travel around Asia is starting to open up in 2022, but the impact of the pandemic can be seen in behavioural changes and complicated travel arrangements.

Touchless interfaces and digital interactions have become a necessity due to a heightened awareness for health and safety, said Ming Wai Fong, STB’s Chief Technology Officer. Many people are also accustomed to digital tools as part of their daily routine, he added.

One of Wong’s priorities for the year ahead is making travel more convenient. One initiative so far is the Visit Singapore app, where travel documents can be submitted and simplified into a QR code. Travellers can then use this QR code as part of the flight pre-boarding process, he shared.

Another programme will give visitors a better idea of which tourist attractions are busy. This will help those exploring the island to keep within safe distancing measures, and will be similar to the Space Out website which provides updates on crowd levels in malls and parks.

“We should not expect tourism to recover in a predictable and linear fashion,” said Keith Tan. While the tourism sector braces itself for a potentially bumpy road ahead, technology can help smoothen the path with greater convenience and innovation.