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Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise GE2218 Group K Analysis 1

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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)

National University of Singapore
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
Department of Geography

GE2218: Leisure, Recreation & Tourism
Year 2011/2012 Semester 2
Group Analysis 1: Assessing a Singapore Tourist Space


Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise

Muriel Ruth Manning, Neo Zhi Wei, Tan Kee Hwee Esther & Woon Wei Seng
Tutorial Group DE3, Group K


Word Count: 1183 words
Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise GE2218 Group K Analysis 1
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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
Introduction
The Singapore River Cruise (SRC), established in 1987 (Singapore River Cruise, 2011),
has been using bumboats retrofitted in traditional colours from the historical twakows
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that
plied the rivers since British colonial rule (Cornelius-Takahama, 2000) for its tour operations.
Due to increasing competition from rival company Singapore DUCKTours, we undertook a
critical analysis of the current promotional model to identify weaknesses and in our report
below, also suggest possible improvements.

Weakness 1: An Insipid Promotional Model
As Crang (2008) asserts, advertising is important in shaping tourists perception of a
certain place as it lures people to the site of their imagination. In our analysis, we find that
SRCs contemporary promotional model is insipid, in this digital age and when compared to
its rival HippoTours (HT). In examining SRCs promotional brochures
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, we note that they
market the heritage of the River and the authenticity of its bumboats. However, the
brochures seem impersonal, portraying Singapore as devoid of people (besides statues), the
focus of heritage solely on cultural artifacts such as the twakow and physical landmarks such
as the Merlion and Esplanade, a trend which runs through the bumboat experience as well.
This contrasts with rival HTs promotional brochures
3
depicting people and liveliness of the
River. Similarly, we notice that the SRCs website
4
has taken the people out of the River as
well. It pales especially in comparison to HTs website
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which shows endorsements and
targeted products for different market segments, although heritage offerings of SRCs
cruises are strongly emphasized, with pages dedicated to the history and landmarks of Our
River
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.
Furthermore, the website is not very interactive, utilizing neither videos nor social
media platforms, besides a button linking to its Facebook page and a link to its Flickr

1
According to Dobbs (2003), twakows are light Chinese crafts that were traditionally used for transporting
goods.
2
See Appendix 1.
3
See Appendix 2.
4
See Appendix 3.
5
See Appendix 4.
6
See Appendix 3.3 & 3.4.
Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise GE2218 Group K Analysis 1
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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
photostream showing its press coverage
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. This does not tap into the full potential that social
media provides in this digital age, with the full plethora of platforms ranging from YouTube
to Twitter that can engage the tech-savvy of todays youth.
8
This affects the marketability
and awareness of SRC amongst youths, especially since an informal poll conducted by us
shows that a good percentage of youths are unaware of the SRC
9
.

Strategy 1: A New Niche Market for Students and Social Media
We propose focusing on a new niche market of visitors - students, as a starting point
to reaching out towards locals as well. A differentiated pricing scheme could be introduced
to cater to them, especially since they are financially less empowered. This will also
encourage repeated visits. Package deals could also be introduced: for instance, the SRC
could partner with certain restaurant(s) to offer lunch and a boat ride at competitive rates.
Both locals and foreigners would potentially be attracted by the value-for-money aspect of
such a marketing strategy as well.
In addition, we recommend maximizing the usage of social media platforms such as
Twitter and Facebook in advertising, especially to cater to our new proposed niche market
of students. For example, in order to increase viewership on the SRCs Facebook page, we
propose to introduce a competitive setting: local patrons of the boat rides will upload
photographs of themselves on the boat, with the best photograph winning a prize. The
winner will be determined by a process of public votes. In this way, awareness of the
product is increased amongst not only those who submit photographs, but their circle of
contacts as well. This is relevant particularly to the student demographic, as they are ardent
users of social media and are an appropriate target audience due to their willingness to try
new activities. Consequently, with the hype of the uploaded photographs and word-of-
mouth publicity, a significant number of peoples impressions of the SRC experience might
be reshaped.

7
See Appendix 3.5.
8
Facebook, Twitter & foursquare are social networking sites that perform different functions. These functions
vary from allowing users to post short posts (tweets in Twitter) to checking-in at a location via ones
smartphone (foursquare). YouTube is a video-sharing website that allows users to upload and share videos
they have made on their own onto the website for public viewing and commenting.
9
See Appendix 5.
Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise GE2218 Group K Analysis 1
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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
Weakness 2: Non-Interactive and Repetitive River Cruise Experience
Experience, to us, is considered a promotional model as tourists may help to further
advertise the river cruise through word of mouth. Hence, we personally took the River
Cruise to better understand the weaknesses in the current boat cruise experience.
First, we noted the lack of interaction between tourists and locals due to the
absence of a human tour guide
10
as a weakness. Furthermore, descriptions of the Singapore
River and famous landmarks along its banks are broadcasted in the bumboat on a pre-
recorded tape
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. We feel that the digitalized commentary of the Singapore River might
result in a highly inauthentic experience of the Singapore River for tourists, especially as
Conran (2006) contends that intimacy and interaction with locals is important for the post-
modern tourist, and might even be the main objective of travel.
In addition, the route along Singapore River is repetitive since the bum-boat only
travels to and fro along the same route.
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We presume the tourists may be bored by the
time it returns from the same stretch of the River. The pre-recorded audio is also not in sync
with the locations we passed by. For example, the video gave a concise description and
history of Fort Canning even though the boat had not yet reached the area. These small
weaknesses combine to form a major deficiency in the overall experience of the River Cruise.

Suggestion 2: The Multi-Sensory Promotional Model
To maximize the authenticity of the SRC experience, we suggest a new multi-sensory
conceptualization of the SRC experience that will increase tourist interactivity with each
other and the surroundings. Research has suggested that taste-scapes, smell-scapes,
sound-scapes, touch-scapes (Franklin, 2001:123) all contribute greatly to the touristic
experience as well (Everett, 2008).

10
The bumboat driver was accompanied by a man who helped us board the bumboat but did not interact with
any of the passengers thereafter until the end of the trip to help us alight from the bumboat. See Appendix 6.1.
11
See Appendix 6.2.
12
The route is a loop depending on where you start, you will head downstream towards the Marina Bay,
loop around it and head back upstream, towards Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay before making a loop and
returning to the start-point downstream.
Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise GE2218 Group K Analysis 1
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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
We suggest replacing the accompanying pre-recorded audio that currently serves as
the impersonal tour guide aboard the bumboat to a human tour guide with whom tourists
can engage with, as the inter-personal approach is important in enhancing the tourist
experience (Giordmaina, 2008:45). Here, the tour guide will be in the best position to allow
tourists to engage in intimate, authentic encounters with locals, for example through
revelation of personal experience and answering questions about Singapores culture.
Adding on to the current visual and audio engagement, we also propose that a
section of the bumboat could be remodeled as a food-tasting site. In her study on food
tourism, Everett (2008:340) suggests that food is increasingly seen to encompass the very
identity of a place or individual. Thus, local snacks from Singapores various cultural groups
for example, Peranakan snacks could be sampled on board to cement the Singaporean
sense of place. Another study further suggests that olfactory marketing helps in the
enhancement of brand communications (Giordmaina, 2008:44); in our case, smells from
food samples on board would serve enhance and retain tourists memories of the cruise
experience aboard the bumboat through further sensory engagement.

Conclusion
To improve the SRCs promotional model so as to attract both tourists and locals
alike to ride the river cruise, we have identified two main weaknesses in the current model -
a lackluster advertising model and an impersonal and jaded boat cruise experience. Hence,
we suggest a two-pronged approach to improve it - identifying a new niche market of
students and tapping into social media to reach out to visitors, and developing a new multi-
sensory experience for visitors. While we acknowledge that there are more weaknesses
than what has been outlined above, we contend that these are the most important and that
the strategies we have developed are not only low-cost but also aimed at having the
greatest impact in changing visitors impressions of the Singapore River Cruise.


Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise GE2218 Group K Analysis 1
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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
Bibliography
Crang, M. (2004) Cultural Geographies of Tourism, in Lew A., Hall C.M., and Williams A. (eds.) A
Companion to Tourism. London, Blackwell, pp. 74-84.
Conran, M. (2006) Beyond Authenticity: Exploring Intimacy in the Touristic Encounter in Thailand,
Tourism Geographies, vol. 8(3), pp. 274-285.
Cornelius-Takahama, V. (2000) Bumboats [Online]. Available at:
<http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_956_2004-12-15.html> [Accessed 12 February 2012].
Dobbs, S. (2003) The Singapore River: a social history. Singapore: Singapore University Press.
Everett, S. (2009) Beyond the visual gaze?: The pursuit of an embodied experience through food
tourism, Tourist Studies, vol. 8(3), pp. 337-358.
Franklin, A. (2001) The Tourist Gaze and Beyond. An Interview with John Urry, Tourist Studies, 1(2),
pp. 11531.
Giordmaina, J. (2008) Multi-sensory marketing and its application in tourism, Journal of the
Institute of Tourism Studies, vol. 2, pp. 42-25.
Singapore River Cruise (2011) Company History [Online]. Available at:
<http://www.rivercruise.com.sg/about.php?p=history> [Accessed 12 February 2012].

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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
Appendix 1: Brochures of Singapore River Cruise (SRC)
(1) Exterior of Singapore River Cruise Brochure, depicting Singapores heritage and landmarks
but devoid of people (besides statues).

(2) Interior of Singapore River Cruise Brochure, similarly full of landmarks.



Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise GE2218 Group K Analysis 1
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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
Appendix 2: Brochures of HippoTours (HT)
(1) Front of Hippo River Cruise Brochure, which shows people whether local worker or tourist.


Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise GE2218 Group K Analysis 1
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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
(2) Rear of Hippo River Cruise Brochure showcasing the performers on their themed cruis

(3) Interior of Hippo River Cruise Brochure, which is similarly peopled even though it also
highlights the landmarks like in the SRC Brochure.


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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
Appendix 3: Website of Singapore River Cruise
(1) Title Page of Singapore River Cruise Website (http://www.rivercruise.com.sg/)

(2) Some Photo Transitions on Title Page of Website (http://www.rivercruise.com.sg/)

Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise GE2218 Group K Analysis 1
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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
(3) Menu Bar of Website

(4) Our Rivers Page (http://www.rivercruise.com.sg/ourriver.php)

(5) Links to Facebook (Facebook logo at bottom-left hand of page) & Flickr (Press Coverage link)
(http://www.rivercruise.com.sg/about.php?p=history)

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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
Appendix 4: Website of Hippo Tours
(1) Title Page of Duck & Hippo Tours Website (http://www.ducktours.com.sg/)


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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
(2) Hippo River Package Page (http://www.ducktours.com.sg/tours_hipporiver.php)



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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
Appendix 5: Facebook Poll
Question: Have you heard of the Singapore River Cruise? Or have you been on board one of the
bumboats of the Singapore River Cruise? (Not the Hippo / Duck Tours!)
Response 1: Yes I have heard of the bumboats of the Singapore River Cruise, but not been on it
45 responses
Response 2: Yes I have been on the bumboats of the Singapore River Cruise 16 responses
Response 3: No I have not heard of the Singapore River Cruise and its bumboats 0 responses
(Poll results as of 16 February 2012 11pm, https://www.facebook.com/woonweiseng?sk=questions)


Appendix 6: Photographs of Singapore River Cruise Experience
(1) The man (in yellow) who helped us to board the bumboat but subsequently did not interact
with us throughout the trip.

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GE2218/2011-2012 Semester 2/Group K/Group Analysis 1/Rethinking the Singapore River Cruise
Muriel Ruth Manning (U091636X), Neo Zhi Wei (A0004662N), Tan Kee Hwee Esther (A0084452E), Woon Wei Seng (A0002916N)
(2) White square loudspeaker on side of bumboat broadcasting pre-recorded commentary that
played at certain key locations along the tour.

(3) Wei Seng, Zhi Wei & Esther (from left to right) on our virgin bumboat experience, on the first
fieldtrip to Singapore River.