Hooray For Singawood.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Monday, 18th February 2008
Lion City feels like Tinsel Town these days, says Yeoh Siew Hoon, who hopes the stage hands don't get overwhelmed by the hype.

I was checking out facilities at Suntec City, Singapore, the other day and expressed interest in one of the venues.

We discussed dates and possibilities – they said there was possible conflict, there was another event and they weren't sure if it could be made available.

I asked politely, "Could you please try your best?" (Even I know that in circumstances such as these, one should not sound too desperate. It is just not dignified.)

The sales executive who was showing me around, stood slightly back, folded her arms, and replied , "We will get back to you."

I told her she sounded just like a Hollywood agent. You know, one of those types when you are pitching a script or an idea says, "Don't call us, we will call you."

She laughed. Perhaps she thought it was a compliment. After all, travel suppliers in Singapore are probably feeling like they are working in Hollywood these days – they are getting as many requests as I suspect agents receive scripts in Tinsel Town and their rates are reaching fantasy levels.

That same night, I attended the Singapore Tourism Industry Night, a party to celebrate the success of last year and to share plans for the year ahead.

The event was held at the new super duper uber luxe St Regis – I know it's uber luxe because a glass of ginger ale can set you back here by S$20. But I guess the kind of clients they are expecting – Hollywood celebrities among them – would not flinch at that nor would they order ginger ale in such a fine establishment in the first place.

When I walked into the ballroom, I thought I had arrived on a Hollywood set. In the middle of the ballroom was a mini-Formula 1 race circuit where guests took turns to race tiny cars around. One Japanese guest kept crashing into the rails but a pretty petite girl, dressed in I guess what must be F1 groupie girlie gear, kept putting his car back on the tracks. Lucky devil.

The management and board of the Singapore Tourism Board were all dressed in F1 racing suits – red and green – to reflect the theme of the night, All Revved Up. Even the Minister of State and Industry, S Iswaran, looked a bit like Lewis Hamilton, from a distance.

Speeches over – I am proud to report that guests actually listened and it was only towards the last 10 minutes or so you felt a wave of restlessness spreading through the room, the songs and games began.

Local entertainer Wendi Koh kicked off the night with a song where she told guests to "shut up and drive". Some did by flocking to the mini race circuit. Some shut up and ate.

In one corner was a magician performing sleight of hand tricks and where you could gamble, using chocolate-covered coins, and win prizes. At another, you could pose for photographs and they'd do things with them so that it appears as though you're actually on the Singapore Flyer, which is due to officially open March 1.

I guess Singapore has plenty of reasons to celebrate. Since 2004, a 25% rise in visitor arrivals to 10.3 million; a 45% growth in tourism receipts to S$13.8 billion; a 66% jump in average room rates. This year's targets – 10.8 million visitors and S$15.5 billion in tourism receipts.

Listening to all the achievements, and accolades, one could well believe that Singapore is on the biggest roll it's been in decades. Big events lined up, big developments being built, mega superstars – Police, Santana, KT Tunstall – flocking to town to perform …

I asked one hotelier if he had seen any fallout from the stock market turbulence. "No," he said. "But we have a low period coming up."

"What's that?" I asked, my ears perking up.

"Chinese New Year. Three days. Very low occupancy."

"How low? 80%?" I asked.

"No, 50%."

Wow, that's bad. Three days, half empty. The rest, no room at the inn.

Oh well, welcome to Singawood…

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com . Get your weekly cuppa of news, gossip, humour and opinion at the cafe for travel insiders.
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