Far East aims to change perceptions of Singapore

Peranakan shophouses in Katong, Singapore
Peranakan shophouses in Katong, Singapore

Far East Hospitality is aiming to boost tourism to Singapore by changing the way tourists view the city-state.

While the common preconception of Singapore is that of a short stopover destination, Far East is planning to shed new light on the city’s past, by organising a two-month festival showcasing Singapore’s cultural heritage.

Speaking to Travel Daily this week, Far East’s chief executive, Arthur Kiong, said the company not only wanted to increase visitor numbers to Singapore, but also to change the way people travel to the city.

“It’s about shifting mindsets. We want people who are coming to Singapore to extend their trip to a two- or three-day break, or to encourage business travellers to stay longer and bring their families, which many do now anyway,” said Kiong, adding that out of every 10 bookings generated by the Heritage Festival, “around six or seven” are likely to be new business.

Running from 19 July to 18 September 2013, the Far East Heritage Festival will offer guests at Far East hotels the opportunity to participate in a heritage trail around some of Singapore’s historic areas. These include Clifford Pier, where Sir Stamford Raffles first landed in Singapore, Amoy Street, where many immigrants first moved to, and Orchard Central, which was famed for its street food stalls.

The festival will be timed to coincide with existing events such as Singapore’s National Day celebrations, which falls on 9 August, but will also see its own attractions and participation from local attractions and museums.

Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality
Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality

Kiong revealed that the event has already garnered significant interest, mainly from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Indonesia. In fact, in the first 20 days of bookings, Far East hotels sold 1,000 room nights on its Heritage Packages.  “Our initial goal was to see whether we could book 4,000 room nights and after 20 days we’ve already booked 1,000, so it’s quite positive so far,” he said.

Interestingly, 13% of these bookings are for Far East’s serviced apartments, and Kiong suggested that a shift in tourist motivation, from short-stay sightseeing to extended exploration, may have longer-term impact on the city’s average length-of-stay.

“Based on what we’ve heard from our wholesale partners, tourists are beginning to see Singapore as the final destination, or at least somewhere for an extended stopover. Right now our average length-of-stay is around 2.1 nights. Even if we can extend this by one night it would be a significant improvement, and given that we have 18 hotels, this would translate to a lot of revenue,” he said.

While 2013 marks the first ever Far East Heritage Festival, Kiong said the concept could potentially expand in future years, encompassing other historical and cultural areas where Far East has a hotel presence.

“We have many ideas to expand it to areas like Changi and Chinatown, but for the first year we decided to test the water and see if it’s successful. But we have plans for a much more elaborate event next year,” Kiong concluded.

And judging by the early signs, the Far East Heritage Festival could have a major long-term impact not only on Singapore’s tourism numbers, but also on the industry’s long-term sustainability.

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