KUCHING (Nov 20): Sarawak Trade and Tourism Office Singapore (Statos) and its ‘hawker stall ambassadors’ are cooking up a storm with Sarawak Food Tourism, by luring thousands of Singaporeans every month to indulge in iconic dishes such as Sarawak Laksa and Kolo Mee, as part of redoubled efforts to promote future visitation to Sarawak.
Statos’ current campaign, a spin-off of its broader ‘Taste of Sarawak’ promotion, draws Singaporeans to take a closer look at Sarawak on their own home turf, by offering Sarawak-style culinary experiences at hawker stalls in Singapore and triggering future wanderlust after the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided.
Statos Deputy chief executive officer Putrie Rozana Soraya said that Statos has doubled down on promotion of Sarawak as a ‘priority future leisure destination” to Singaporeans, by using the universal appeal of Food Tourism to stir up interest in Sarawak’s travel appeal and cultural identity.
“Food has always been a fabulous bait to influence Singaporean travellers to choose a travel destination. Popularising signature Sarawak dishes before tourism begins to bounce back from Covid-19 allows Statos to build destination awareness organically, by using the resources on hand with hawkers and media in Singapore itself,” she said.
She said prior to full reopening of international travel, Food Tourism promotion will help Sarawak to gain a competitive advantage.
“Statos is building a community movement to unite passionate Singaporean foodies, including entrepreneurs and social media, to sample Sarawak without having to leave the country,” she added.
She further noted that Food Tourism marketing such as events, food fairs and cooking workshops have the power to sharpen Singaporean’s interest in Sarawak’s cultural identity, traditions, and history, all while remaining safely on home soil.
Last month, Statos and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) Minister Dato’ Sri Nancy Shukri identified Food Tourism as a special ‘tourism niche’ that could stimulate Singaporean’s travel appetites for Sarawak, once the pandemic has subsided.
Launched in December 2019, Statos’ ‘Eat Chiak Makan — Kuching Food Trail’ campaign highlighted attractive Kuching eateries for the Singapore market.
Since then, Statos has created ambassadors out of three hawker stall owners in Singapore who directly promote Sarawak’s travel values to Singaporeans who are seeking out new flavours.
The move has paid off with 5,000 additional stall visitors in August 2020 and a 30 percent increase in sales for participating hawker stalls in ensuing months up to November, on the back of a Statos publicity blitz with a local popular radio station and magazine, and social media food platforms.
Hawker stall owner Rushen Tan, owner of JJ Sarawak Noodles in Singapore, said that hawkers of Sarawak cuisine had seen both positive business outcomes and also new interest in Sarawak as a destination from both regular and new patrons alike.
“Many of our Singaporean and expatriate customers expressed excitement over both the unique taste of our Sarawak Laksa and Kolo Mee, which is reflected in our soaring sales figures, and our customers are now far more aware of Sarawak’s heritage, culture and traditions”, said Tan, adding that food was a gateway into other cultures’ identities to create lasting memories and deeper insight.
According to MOTAC, from January to June 2020, Malaysia saw a 75 per cent plunge in inbound arrivals compared to 2019 and a loss of RM44 billion in tourism receipts inclusive of RM31 billion from international markets, while tourism recovery is slated for the second quarter of 2021.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) asserted that Singapore is the top inbound market for Malaysia with some 10.16 million Singaporean tourists in 2019, which justifies tourism-linked collaboration.