When it was revealed that Singapore taxpayers’ money – as much as S$20 million – was burned on the U.S-North Korea summit, not many were impressed. About half of the expenses went to security costs. However, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said – “It is a cost we are willing to pay. It’s our contribution to an international endeavour which is in our profound interest.”
Mr. Lee said – “It gives us publicity. The fact that we have been chosen as the site of the meeting – we did not ask for it, but we were asked and we agreed – says something about Singapore’s relations with the parties, with America, with North Korea, also our standing in the international community.” There’s little doubt that it was a worthwhile investment.
It’s not everyday you get to host a meeting between two alpha males who almost started the world’s first nuclear war, and send humankind to extinction. Nobody can argue with Singapore when it comes to publicity or marketing. After all, tourism is the sector that contributes about 4% of the actual GDP to the country.
In 2017, tourist arrivals hit a record 17.4 million, thanks primarily by China, and contributed $20 billion to the tiny nation. However, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) was forced to react in February this year when Singapore was called the world’s most boring city – came in 31st out of 32 cities (one spot above Istanbul) – in an anonymous survey by Time Out.
Hence, when Singapore was approached to host the Trump-Kim summit, it was a golden opportunity to promote the country. The tiny but wealthy Southeast Asia country was selected because they have diplomatic relations with both the U.S. and North Korea. More importantly, Singapore was more than willing to host the historic summit.
Of course, the country has strict laws that limit public demonstrations – a factor which ensures Kim Jong-Un would not be humiliated. A police permit is needed to hold public assemblies. Even then, foreigners cannot participate. When Howard X, a Kim Jong-Un impersonator from Australia arrived at the city’s airport, he was detained immediately and grilled about his “political views.”
Surprisingly, not everyone knows Singapore despite the country crowned as the world’s most expensive city to live in for the fifth year running, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Worldwide Cost of Living 2018 survey. In fact, the U.S. Department of State mistook Singapore as part of Malaysia on the Remarks at Press Briefing’s transcript dated June 11, 2018.
The photo of 34-year-old Kim Jong-Un strolling and waving towards the crowd of tourists, families and media at the top of Marina Bay Sands, the iconic Singapore hotel, on Monday night before his historic meeting with President Trump had prompted U.S. citizens asking – “Where is Singapore?” On Monday Google search engine registered more than 2-million hits on Singapore.
Marketing experts say the publicity generated from the Singapore Summit could be worth more than 10 times than the government’s S$20 million investment. Mr Andrew Darling, CEO and founder of communications agency West Pier Ventures, claimed it would cost more than S$200 million to generate the kind of publicity Singapore has received.
However, the ROI (return on investment) could be higher than that. According to Reuters, Media intelligence firm Meltwater said the coverage over the 3 days around the summit amounted to US$270 million (S$364 million; £203 million; RM1 billion) of advertising, while the month leading up to it was worth US$767 million (S$1 billion; £577 million; RM3 billion).
Besides North Korean “Rocket Man” Kim who brought back home a huge propaganda victory, the Little Red Dot obviously has scooped the most benefits from the Trump-Kim Summit. It will be interesting to see the visitor arrivals after the boost of Singapore on the map.
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