Drive to woo back shoppers

THE Singapore Tourism Board (STB) began a S$2mil (RM4.2mil) publicity campaign yesterday to get people here shopping and eating out as freely as they did before SARS hit home in March.  

Called Step Out Singapore, the campaign's pitch is simple: Show the world that Singapore is having fun again, and maybe tourists will be tempted to join in. 

Tourist arrivals plummeted by almost 70% last month, while sales in shopping malls have gone down by about 30% since SARS came on the scene. 

But now seems the right time to lure both tourists and shoppers back, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Tharman Shanmugaratnam because the 'fear factor' has somewhat receded. 

At Tuesday’s Enterprise 50 ranking and awards ceremony, Tharman said Singaporeans had learnt to live with the virus and begun venturing out for meals and deals again. 

He added: “Parents are confident with their children going to school and playing their games. 

“Businesses are adjusting their ways of operating, both internally within their organisations and in dealing with suppliers and customers.” 

He stressed that the Government's priority was to strengthen and sustain confidence among investors, travellers and consumers so that life could return to normal. 

It would also work with businesses to power the republic to recovery, with or without SARS, he said. 

Building on that and a reported 20% jump in retail sales over the recent May Day weekend, the STB has teamed up with more than 75 shops, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions here to offer a truckload of discounts and freebies from now to the end of next month.  

Announcing the goodies at Traders Hotel, STB chief Lim Neo Chian, 50, estimated that the campaign would yield S$100mil (RM2.1mil) in direct and indirect earnings for the economy. 

Still, Lim said that visitor arrivals this year were likely to fall below earlier projections of between minus 1% and 3%. 

Upcoming events in the new campaign include a rock concert at Fort Canning Green on Saturday, slashed rates at selected hotels and restaurants and 50% off entry fees to popular tourist attractions. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network  

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