STB chief: ‘destinations should focus on recovery not short-term losses’

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Keith Tan, CEO, Singapore Tourism Board. Keith Tan, CEO, Singapore Tourism Board.

The head of Singapore Tourism Board has told destinations battling the novel coronavirus to concentrate on long-term reputation management - rather than stemming losses this year.

In an interview with ami stablemate, Keith Tan said destinations like Japan, South Korea, and Italy should focus on what makes them different and ensuring that doesn’t get lost as the crisis unfolds.

Attempts to deal with visitor drops-offs this year were probably a waste of money.

“My humble advice? Don’t worry about arrivals this year. It will be a washout. What’s more important is to preserve your destination's brand equity, double-down on what is distinctive about your destination, and focus on that,” he said.

His comments came as Singapore appears to have contained the virus.

At one stage the island state was the worst hit region outside mainland China, but since then the rate of infection has slowed markedly. Right now 117 people have been infected with the virus in Singapore, of which 81 have fully recovered. There have been no fatalities.

Tan said the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore followed 'four good years of growth’ and would cause a 'major correction' for the entire industry, but that it provided a chance to rethink certain aspects of the tourism economy, including meetings and events.

“This entire year will be a reset for us and it creates opportunities to look at our existing playbook, our existing offerings, see what needs to be refreshed, and whether there are opportunities for the industry to come together and create better products.”

Singapore has been hit by numerous event cancellations in recent weeks, but Tan said there was no reason why meetings and events should not continue.

“The first thing that we’ve done is reach out to all the event organisers and make sure they are actively appraised of the facts of what is happening in Singapore, give them the assurances that everything is under control and we have very effective containment strategies in place and life continues as normal with some adjustments along the way and we believe these meetings and events can continue.

“Ultimately we respect the decision of the organisers and if they decide to postpone we will work with them to facilitate the process, especially if hey are postponing to the second half of 2020. Then we look at opportunities as well – whether IBT Asia in Singapore can be expanded after IBT Berlin was cancelled, for example.”

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James Lancaster
Written By
James Lancaster

AMI editor James Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk, read, listen to music, and drink beer.

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