Live Streaming and Tourism: Showcasing Singapore to the World

Traditional media and its effectiveness in promoting tourism and related issues have been debated among scholars for quite some time. A number of research studies have suggested that media such as news broadcasts and documentaries have the potential to skew the images of tourist destinations through agenda setting and framing. However, others have suggested that the use of no-cost live media such as webcasting can help to give a more complete and objective image of a destination. This is an area which definitely warrants further research, especially with the convergence of communication and information technologies in the internet age, the globalized nature of new media, and the diverse number of new media platforms, particularly in webcasting and live streaming Singapore, which have a relatively low production cost and often have very little or no production subsidization linkages, which can influence editorial control.

Live streaming Singapore, on the other hand, can be done at a relatively low production cost and can feature real unedited images and video of a place and its people. This paper intends to discuss the impact live streaming can have on tourism through the case study of events held in Singapore in which international viewers were engaged through live streaming with the goal of promoting Singapore as a tourist destination. The paper will also be exploring the various live streaming platforms that can be used to promote tourism. Recommendations will be made based on the comparisons of the various platforms to come to a conclusion of what type of live streaming and which platforms are the most effective in promoting tourism.

Unlike the broadcast industry, which plays a role in promoting tourism by reporting news and showing documentaries, live streaming has the potential to promote tourism on a scale and in a manner which has never been possible till now. While traditional media plays an important role in introducing a destination to potential tourists, most broadcast programs tend to be limited in duration and are fairly expensive to produce. This can result in minimal coverage of a destination in comparison to the amount of coverage time other destinations with similar appeal, but larger marketing budgets receive. Additionally, the high production cost of such programs can often lead to the inclusion of advertising segments or messages from sponsors. Potential tourists who are exposed to this kind of promotional material can be left with a negative image of the destination as opposed to the desired result.

Benefits of Live Streaming for Tourism

 Increased Reach and Engagement

In conclusion, live streaming has opened an effective platform for the Singapore Tourism Board to promote events, activities, and locales to a global audience, creating stronger brand awareness and positioning.

Live stream sessions featuring influencer or celebrity hosts garnering a strong following and viewership. Their fans would then be attracted to the stream and there may be an increased interest in the host’s fanbase to find out more about Singapore, its unique events, or interesting activities.

Viewers often have questions about locales, events, or promotions and are unsure of where to seek the information. During live streaming, viewers are able to post questions or comments and have them answered immediately by the host. This two-way interaction creates a strong engagement and personal connection. Information provided is real-time and up-to-date. Viewers then have the assurance that what they are viewing or reading is accurate information. Through real-time Q&A sessions, viewers are able to obtain in-depth knowledge or behind-the-scenes information which adds value to the content viewed.

Social media platforms allow for sharing and reposting. The ease of spreading information means that viewership may not only be confined to the local community. An interesting video or event broadcast may be shared by users worldwide with their friends. This creates immediate awareness and possibly an interest from a potential tourist, creating an exponential increase in reach.

Given that Singapore’s brand positioning in tourism is relatively distinct, live streaming is a boost for the country to reach out and engage with viewers worldwide. While the broadcast of various events and activities may be a form of promotional activity, bringing them live to the viewers at home creates a sense of anticipation and involvement. Broadcasting events such as New Year’s Eve, Countdown or traditional events Hari Raya and Chinese New Year greetings allows viewers to feel that they are celebrating together with Singapore and thus will be a motivation for them to participate in the events in Singapore in subsequent years.

Real-Time Interaction with Viewers

Live streaming is one of the best ways to engage with viewers in today’s digital experience age. Live streaming effectively enables communicative processes over the internet, and it has been gaining popularity for the last 5-6 years with a number of streaming services and a huge variety of content. The most important part of live streaming is that it enables two-way communication between the streamer and the audience in real time. This means the audience can actively participate in the stream session by giving comments, suggestions, requests, and asking questions, which can be responded to by the streamer immediately. Due to the real-time response, viewers will feel that they are much more involved in the program compared to just watching a pre-recorded video. The interaction is also direct and casual compared to professional customer service or an interview, suiting best with the tourism atmosphere. Live streaming continues to build a relationship between the streamer and the audience, and followers are constantly notified of upcoming streams, making it the closest online community between content creators and viewers.

Interaction with tourists is a key element of the tourism experience. As tourists are temporary visitors, it is essential to make the best use of the limited time and provide them with the best experience, edutainment, and engagement. This can be achieved by involving them in creative and productive manners, for example, by involving them in stage shows, local festivals, public events, or even cultural exchange programs. Interaction is an opportunity for tourists to co-create their experience, making it personal and memorable. Interactions will also give tourists a better understanding of the local way of life and culture.

Cost-Effective Marketing Tool

With reference to Singapore live streaming footage of events and programs could easily be produced on a minimal budget. An example could be taken from the recent live streaming of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) which was streamed from an IP Camera and uploaded directly to YouTube. This whole process was executed with very little financial investment yet enables the YOG to reach out to a global audience.

It is expensive to run an HD broadcast and may require more than one camera; an HD channel can cost upwards of $3500 per hour and may require up to $7000 per hour depending on the number of cameras and camera crew. An example of an HD live stream in Singapore is the program ‘This is Lush TV’ on Though, compare this to the cost of PC fair where Lush TV was able to conduct a live stream, showcasing various aspects of the fair as well as conducting interviews with little or no post-production work. This kind of approach would only cost a fraction of an HD broadcast.

Live streaming services generally require a camera crew, and this technology can vary depending on the broadcast quality. Broadcast quality can scale right from basic VGA webcasts to HD productions, though the best streams are filmed on an HD camera and should have a twofold stream, with the secondary stream providing a lower quality broadcast for those viewers without a broadband connection.

This paper would argue the case that live streaming is one of the most cost-effective ways to market Singapore to a global audience. In order to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of live streaming, one must first consider the cost of implementing live streaming and the potential associated cost-savings.

When it comes to promoting the country on a global platform, the role that live streaming technology plays is unparalleled. With the help of this new form of digital media, the country is able to showcase its captivating array of tourist destinations, its unique blend of cultures, and most importantly, the hospitable and friendly nature of Singaporeans. While there are many benefits to live streaming tourism, the main aspect I’m going to focus on is how this form of new media is, in fact, a cost-effective way of marketing Singapore to the rest of the world.

Successful Examples of Live Streaming in Singapore

Due to the success of the virtual tour, it set a good example of a new way to build up towards an event to create awareness and engage foreign visitors.

In Singapore, a great example of this has been the live stream of the sunset and dusk procession at the Helix Bridge and Youth Olympic Park to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan. The event was streamed in real time to viewers in Japan on the internet and mobile devices. The event provided a unique virtual experience to Japanese culture enthusiasts who could witness firsthand Singapore’s way of celebrating the close ties between the two countries. This had sparked interest and encouraged the viewers to attend the event in person in the near future when they visit Singapore. It was a cost-effective way to encourage tourists from Japan as they are able to witness a significant event in a location they are familiar with without physically being there.

Successful examples of live streaming in Singapore: virtual tours of iconic landmarks. One of the most popular uses of live streaming in tourism has been the virtual tours of iconic landmarks. As live streaming can happen in real time, viewers are able to witness an event as if they were there. It can be a great tool to showcase significant landmarks or attractions from any given location around the world.

Virtual Tours of Iconic Landmarks

The most successful example of a virtual tour of a landmark has to be the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts’ (MICA) live cast of the opening of the refurbished Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. Newly completed in 2014, the iconic buildings were off limits to the public for a long time as it underwent renovation. The live cast was the perfect opportunity to allow the public to take a look at the interior of the buildings and understand the extent of the refurbishment works while learning about the history of the buildings. The live cast was well received by the public and to date, the video has been viewed over 3600 times. Viewers were also encouraged to interact and post questions through the live chat on the event page where some questions were selected and answered by the speakers during the Q&A session. An example of a viewer’s question and answer can be found at 49:25 into the video. Another good example is the live cast by National Heritage Board of the Armenian Street Party – Peranakan Museum’s 3rd Anniversary celebrations. The live cast allowed users to participate in the celebrations halfway across the world through the internet. By leveraging on Facebook’s live streaming capabilities, virtual visitors could take a look at some of the museum’s rarely displayed collections and also take part in the activities at the street party by posting comments and questions. At selected timings, special guides would take visitors on a virtual tour of the museum and its collection which gave visitors a better understanding of the Peranakan culture. This ultimately led to a 36% increase in the museum’s visitorship following the live cast.

Live Demonstrations of Local Culture and Cuisine

Straits Times, a popular local newspaper in Singapore, also had a successful example of using live streaming to share local knowledge of culture and cuisine with a global audience. They collaborated with Singapore Airlines to produce a series of live streamed cooking demonstrations featuring Singapore’s local cuisine by international culinary personalities such as Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck. The target audience for this campaign was primarily international foodies who are likely to travel to Singapore for the love of food. The objectives of the campaign were to promote and raise awareness of Singapore Airlines’ in-flight cuisine and to inspire viewers to visit Singapore and try out the local cuisine for themselves. This campaign was deemed a success as it managed to achieve high viewership and engagement, with the majority of the viewers being based overseas. The videos attracted a total of 263,000 views with an average viewer watching the video for about 10 minutes, thus indicating a high level of engagement. The videos also managed to achieve their objectives with the local cuisine, with the international chefs creating hype and anticipation as to what was in store with Singapore Airlines’ in-flight meals. This campaign has been acclaimed for successfully providing an understanding of the multicultural heritage of Singapore’s cuisine and sharing the passion that Singaporeans have for their food.

Australia-based company, Georama, used live streamed video tour technology to showcase the sights and sounds of Singapore’s food scene. In doing so, they managed to engage a global audience. The live streamed food tour was held at a local food centre, where audiences were taken on a tour of the hawker food and given insight into its history and heritage. Throughout the tour, viewers were able to interact with the guides and were highly engaged, asking questions about the food, its cultural significance, and the availability of guided tours like these in Singapore. This live streamed virtual food tour is indeed a prime example of how live video streaming can be used to bridge cultural gaps and bring understanding and appreciation of a foreign culture to a global audience. The food tour succeeded in educating foreign audiences about Singapore’s food heritage, thus achieving one of the key success factors outlined by Lin and Ang.

Singapore Tourism Board set out with the aim that live streaming techniques “should be educational and it should be able to bring Singapore to life”. The following examples have been successful in engaging foreign audiences by taking them on a journey of Singapore’s local culture and cuisine, thus validating Singapore Tourism Board’s objectives.

Interactive Q&A Sessions with Experts

Case 1: Architecture and Urban Planning The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) organized a chat session with an architect who was involved in designing Haji Lane, a popular tourist spot. Prior to the session, a thread was started on the URA Facebook page to gather questions from the public. The chat session was then hosted from the URA office and questions posted by the public were fielded to the architect. The session provided insights into the inspirations and ideas behind the area’s design and helped to create a better appreciation of the conservation efforts in retaining the area’s heritage and injecting new life into it. Although no specific statistics were provided to measure the success, the URA states that it was well received by the public and sees potential in future sessions on other areas of interest.

Interactive Q&A sessions are a great way to involve potential tourists. By inviting experts in various fields to answer questions from the viewers, the sessions provide in-depth information and personal insights to the users. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and online media company, BeLive, have successfully implemented this strategy.

Challenges and Considerations for Live Streaming in Tourism

The authenticity of a live-streamed event can be hard to gauge as viewers have no point of reference. However, in tourism, this is particularly crucial as most of the appeal for viewing a destination lies in its natural and cultural authenticity. An unpolished or overly commercial depiction of certain cultural aspects may deter future travelers from visiting an area as they believe it has become too tourist-oriented. Quality control is also an issue, as high-quality streams require more data and higher costs. The recent boom of user-created videos with websites like YouTube has shown a shift in viewer expectations, and many are no longer satisfied with low-resolution video. However, high-quality streaming can still only be accessed through broadband connections, leaving behind rural or remote areas which could possibly benefit the most from live-streamed tourism promotion.

Live streaming depends highly on an adequate internet infrastructure, both at the destination and the broadcasting location. Issues such as low bandwidth and slow network speed can lead to poor quality streams, loss of supplementary data, and reduced interactivity for viewers. There is also a risk of data loss on expensive equipment and a need to keep it protected, as the need to travel to remote locations with a camera and a laptop can heighten the chance of theft. Such technical issues were experienced by the Japanese government, which spent several million yen on live streaming the natural beauty of Japan, only to experience numerous technical difficulties and an inability to connect to overseas servers due to the country’s network restrictions. It was a hard lesson learned, and Japan abandoned its live streaming project.

Connectivity and Technical Issues

Connectivity and technical issues are a central point of consideration in the mobile streaming context. As Hussy et al. observe, the quality of the internet connection and the type of hardware and software used by the streamer will influence the success of the streaming process. Singapore is renowned for its high level of technological infrastructure and uptake by the general population. In streaming situations where the host is moving from place to place (as would be the case in a travelogue format), the accessibility of wireless internet connections becomes a critical factor. The Singaporean government in 2006 announced plans to make the entire island a wireless hotspot. This kind of environment would be conducive to tourist streaming scenarios. High levels of digital and media literacy and capability among the population would also work in this favor. Singapore’s rates of broadband connectivity are increasing with the advances in technology and decreasing costs. According to the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, in 2009, 99% of homes have broadband access. During that year, the average household with school-going children also owned about nine internet-enabled devices. This demonstrates that the audience on the other end of the stream will have a high level of capability in connectivity to access the content. These factors provide an ideal setting for streaming situations. However, Singapore is not exempt from connectivity dead zones and disparities in connectivity quality. In remote or less-visited areas, the quality of wireless or cellular data connection may not be sufficient to stream high-quality video. This situation is somewhat mitigated by offline video features available on social media platforms such as Facebook. High video quality has its own set of requirements. While sites like YouTube allow for high-definition video playback, some social media sites may restrict video quality to save on bandwidth and loading times. These are all considerations that the streamer must take into account, and the design of the content or choice of location may need to be altered accordingly.

Ensuring Authenticity and Quality Content

Rather than being a controlled, pre-packaged medley of perfectly selected sites and attractions, it is important that the live streaming effort captures real life as it happens, for good or for bad. The danger here is that there is a tendency to want to edit life, or to communicate the PR story of place – however, the more contrived, perfect or cultured the content appears, the less authentic it will be. This is what discerning media and tourism consumers are rejecting – fakery and spin. Yet given that Tourism Singapore’s activities will intrinsically involve promoting the Singapore ‘brand’ to some extent, managers are going to have to think hard about how they can communicate the ‘essence’ of Singapore life and culture – in a way that still holds this in a positive light. This is where the creative use of live streaming will come into play, using serendipity and lucky chance to capture great live action footage, unscripted, un-staged happenings and provocative “real life” events, or to seek chance encounters with locals and their culture. This might involve taking the camera away from the central business districts and tourist traps – and heading into the heartlands of real Singapore, with the objective of revealing the undercurrents and subcultures of a fast changing nation. To this end, staff might want to collaborate with local affiliates and off the beaten track “cultural insiders” who will be able to point them to interesting events happenings and places.

Privacy and Security Concerns

Many popular tourist hotspots around the world are private communities. A precedent already exists in barring camera crews from filming such private areas without owner consent due to negative portrayal in traditional media. The individuals of communities fear that live streams will carry only the negative aspects of tourism, resulting in these areas becoming ‘tourist spots’ in order to see the unusual footage. “How do I stop this from happening?” said the mayor of a small village in Spain when asked about keeping his town off of Google Maps Street View. The impact of live streaming on private communities and businesses has not been fully examined, however it may result in heavy political lobbying for bans or restrictions on live streaming in tourism.

Many legal and ethical complications arise through the advent of live streaming of video footage. Should private areas and people be blurred out of a live stream to the public? How can we control and censor unwarranted material from being broadcast? Lawsuits have already arisen over internet media infringement and privacy to individuals; where does live streaming live under this?

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