Some tourist attractions in Singapore finding it hard to woo locals, others unable to meet demand

The Trick Eye Museum was quiet when TODAY visited on July 27, 2020. — TODAY pic
The Trick Eye Museum was quiet when TODAY visited on July 27, 2020. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 10 — With the Covid-19 pandemic having battered the tourism industry, several local tourist attractions have been turning to the local market in a bid to stanch the bleeding.

Some are finding more success than others.

Of the five local tourist attractions TODAY visited several times over the past few weeks, the Singapore Flyer, Singapore Cable Car and Flight Experience were able to draw a steady stream of customers, while Trick Eye Museum and Madame Tussauds were quieter in comparison.

In the case of Flight Experience, which runs a Boeing 737 simulator at Singapore Flyer and two virtual reality machines at its outlet in Funan Mall, it said that it had more customers than available slots.

Seventy per cent of visitors at the flight simulator were tourists, but the attraction launched an online marketing blitz to woo locals after the Flyer’s closure in November 2019, said Mr Alwin Wong, Flight Experience’s assistant operations manager.

He declined to reveal the attraction’s visitor numbers, but said figures for July were lower than in previous years.

Still, the online campaign helped create a “reasonable demand for bookings when we reopened in July”, said Wong.

“While that alone is insufficient to cover all the overheads, we are grateful to be able to turn things around rather quickly and protect the jobs of our staff.”

The attraction has started to open on Wednesdays in August to meet the demand. Previously, it used to be open from Thursdays to Fridays from 2pm to 8pm, and weekends from 11am to 8pm.

Likewise, the Singapore Cable Car received fewer visitors in July 2020 as compared to the previous year but visitorship doubled from March’s figures, which was before the circuit breaker kicked in.

“Since reopening, we pivoted our plans to focus on local crowds in the coming months by rolling out events and promotions with a more domestic appeal,” said Patrick Lee, One Faber Group’s sales and business development director.

Of the visitors in July 2020, 30 per cent were Faber Licence members who get unlimited rides, while the rest were guests who bought the attraction’s Welcome Back promotion.

Visitors at the Singapore Flyer on July 23, 2020 when it reopened its doors. — TODAY pic
Visitors at the Singapore Flyer on July 23, 2020 when it reopened its doors. — TODAY pic

The Singapore Flyer did not dangle discounts when it reopened its doors on July 23 following the circuit breaker. While it did not disclose the number of people who visited, TODAY noticed about 50 visitors between 3pm and 6pm.

One of them was Belinda Young, a 60-year-old accountant, who said she was there because she wanted to support local businesses. She had an entire capsule all to herself.

Previously, the Singapore Flyer had 1.3 million visitors annually, of which most were international tourists, said a spokesperson.

The attraction temporarily stopped operations in November 2019 after detecting a technical issue. It later resumed operations for 12 days in March 2020 before circuit breaker rules were put in place.

Footfall at Trick Eye Museum at Resorts World Sentosa has been slow. Since its reopening on July 11, the museum sees an average of 20 visitors on weekdays and 90 on weekends, said Sharon Loh, brand manager of Trick Eye Museum.

She said that the museum is offering “a lot more promotions, discounts and deals on various platforms” to target the local crowd.

“We usually see 80 per cent tourists and 20 per cent locals,” Ms Loh said.

“Business is also at an all-time low. We see none of our usual visitors and fewer locals.”

However, the lack of crowds was one reason Theresa Pierson took her children, who were having their summer vacation, to the Trick Eye Museum on July 28.

“I heard that it was rather crowded pre-coronavirus, so now it’s a really good time to visit because it’s not crowded,” said the 42-year-old homemaker.

Similarly, it was quiet at Madame Tussauds Singapore when TODAY visited. While the spokesperson for Madame Tussauds declined to disclose its visitor numbers, it said that it saw “only a fraction of our normal visitors”.

“The upside is that we do see an increase of the numbers every week,” said the spokesperson.

The entrance to Madame Tussauds was quiet on Aug 3, 2020. — TODAY pic
The entrance to Madame Tussauds was quiet on Aug 3, 2020. — TODAY pic

Victor Ho, who went to the museum with a friend on August 3, visited the tourist attraction using the complimentary Sentosa Fun passes given in the National Day Parade fun pack. The 59-year-old retiree noticed it was very quiet as there were “only two other people in the attraction with us”.

Tourist attractions could target ‘different demographics’

Experts TODAY spoke to said that local tourist attractions have to rebrand themselves and target different segments of Singaporeans.

“For Singaporeans that are feeling cabin fever, they can explore different places and visit attractions they have never been before,” said Christopher Khoo, the managing director of tourism consultancy MasterConsult Services, though he added that the local market is not a long-term solution.

Shirley Tee, a senior manager at Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Business Management, said that attractions that struggle to woo local visitors should relook their branding “so that customers have a fear of missing out mentality”.

As tourist attractions do not see crowds on weekdays, Tee said that they could target “different demographics such as full-time housewives or freelancers” who tend to have more flexibility in managing their time.

This sentiment was echoed by Chew Kian Beng, the course chair of the diploma in hospitality and tourism management at Temasek Polytechnic, who suggested that attractions target the silver generation on weekdays.

“For the senior citizens, who have been cooped up at home for the past months and may have lost their social network, an organised trip opens up an alternative leisure option,” said Chew.

He said tourist attractions could also offer loyalty programmes to encourage repeat visits, and relook their prices as the “local market is more price sensitive compared to tourists”.

Michael Chiam, a senior tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said that reopening attractions for locals will allow attraction owners to test their safe management systems and also earn some income.

He added: “As long as the locals perceive that it is safe to venture outdoors by adhering to all the safe management measures that are put in place, confidence will slowly be restored and some degree of normalcy will return.” — TODAY

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