As the Singapore Tourism Board had embarked on a debatably controversial execution in targeting the Australian audience, I like to share with you some of the thoughts I have on tourism advertising.

When you are everywhere, you are nowhere.

When you are somewhere, you are everywhere.

– Rumi

One of the main challenges in promoting a place as tourist destination is that it is almost impossible to agreed on a single proposition, simply because of the number of stakeholders involved – from politicians, businesses, industry bodies to ordinary citizen – each hold on to their own agenda; as are the complex segmentation of target audiences categorised by region and at the same time cutting through different sectors.

The outcome often turns out to be somewhat of a compromise and most often than not, the ‘agreed’ execution is watered down to the lowest common denominator.

Is it time for tourism marketing to take a detour?

With a much richer media landscape to build your brand story these days, would a well-orchestrated multi-touchpoint strategy, each reaching a very specific target be more effective? Apart from the mass appeal ‘poster image attraction’ approach are we missing out the niche interests? Are we underestimating the power of the people? Will campaigns like ‘Community of Sweden’ making the most of sharing and user generated content work in your culture?

Here I have randomly clipped some of the recent campaigns by various tourism boards from Portugal, Turkey, India, Norway and Austria. These are by no means comprehensive nor representative (and you will see what I meant). What I like to provoke are discussions on what makes a tourism campaign successful. And more important, how a watered-down message simply won’t help.

I also like to hear any good examples of tourism marketing tactics that work specifically for your market, and what we can learn from it. (Tweet @louiechow)


When I saw the second instalment of the campaign from the Singapore Tourism Board, I knew that it will create a bit of debate.

The commercial was designed to target the Australian tourists and aimed to change Australians’ entrenched perception of Singapore as a stopover destination. Debuted on 8 March in cinemas across Australia.

Perhaps what have created the instant reaction from the audience was in fact the tagline they had chosen – ‘Get Lost and Find the Real Singapore’.

Riding on the colloquialism of the folks down under, the approach reminds me of the ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ catchphrase from the Australian Tourism Commission a couple of years ago. Tongue-in-cheek? Definitely. Gimmicky? May be. What’s the difference this time is the ‘Get Lost’ campaign from the STB is meant to be single-mindedly for the Australian audience, while the ATC ‘WTBHAY’ campaign was run internationally. So compare to the ATC tactics, STB’s strategy is one that based on segmentation and localized messaging.

Back in December last year, STB had already launched the first phase of the campaign entitled ‘New Discoveries’ in China, specially tailored for the new wave of Chinese tourists who are beginning to make their own travel arrangement, much younger and look for experiences that include new and unique undertakings.

Putting the execution aside, I think the tactics of clear targeting and strategic localized message is already a step better than most ‘wallpaper’ type tourism marketing I have seen.

The only thing I like to suggest is underneath all the localized message, if there is an emotional ‘hot button’ that run through the campaigns in different market, identifying the ‘universal truth’ as I always believe, it will allow a much stronger platform for any execution to build on.

According to STB, the customized marketing plans will be rolled out in phases. After the launch in China and Australia, India, Indonesia and Malaysia will follow. I guess we just have to wait and see.

At the time of writing this post, I have asked a few of my creative folks in Sydney to comment on this campaign from a local point of view, please check back for updates.

If you are based in India, Indonesia and Malaysia, how do you think STB should tailor their message for your market? I would like to hear from you.