Virtual tours of Singapore attracting foreigners
Singapore Tourism Board looks to promote more of such activities abroad
With the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual local tours and experiences are attracting not only Singapore residents but also foreigners curious about the sights and sounds here.
While the virtual tour experience remains novel to many, including tour guides here, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is looking to promote more of such activities abroad and encouraging providers to take their offerings online.
On Thursday, STB and Airbnb signed a two-year memorandum of understanding to promote the local tours and experiences on Airbnb's platform. The tours already on online platforms, such as TourHQ and Airbnb's Online Experiences, include live-streamed walkabouts or cooking demonstrations, while others consist of pre-recorded segments, with hosts in their own homes or offices engaging with participants.
Ms P. S. Yeo is one of several here who have taken their tours and experiences online, in a bid to continue hosting travellers while globetrotting remains a challenge due to Covid-19 border restrictions.
Ms Yeo, who owns and operates the Everyday Tour Company, started the Explore Crazy and Rich Singapore online tour in July.
She said the majority of her participants are from abroad.
Her tour, centred on the 2018 hit movie Crazy Rich Asians that features Singapore prominently, aims to compare the lived experiences of Singaporeans with those portrayed in the film, and has drawn audiences from around the world.
She hosts between 20 and 60 participants a week.
Other tour operators and hosts are also tailoring their products to suit overseas audiences.
Mr Dhruv Shanker, an expatriate from India, said his virtual cooking classes have been popular enough among foreigners for him to run them daily at 6am to cater to participants from the western hemisphere, before he begins work later as a marketing consultant.
Mr Shanker, who has lived here for almost seven years, said his classes focus on Indian food, but he shares a list of must-eat hawker food and Singapore delicacies that participants should try out here.
Monster Day Tours' fortnightly virtual tours of one-north - which it dubs the "Silicon Valley of Singapore" - are mostly attended by Singaporeans, but there are foreigners too.
The tour operator's founder Suen Tat Yam said about 80 per cent of the participants are Singapore residents, while the rest are mostly from other parts of Asia.
It intends to add virtual tour locations and make such events a permanent fixture in its offerings. "There are some who do not have the privilege to travel but still want to explore new places. We want to make tours accessible to them too."
Guides and tour operators said virtual tours will not cannibalise future physical visits to the country.
Ms Jean Wang, chairman of the Society of Tourist Guides Singapore, said "virtual tours can whet (foreigners') appetite but... people will still want to taste and smell - you cannot replicate that online".
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NG WEI KAI