Sentosa Development Corporation
Client: Sentosa Development Corporation
Title: Virtual Sentosa
Media: Social, Gaming
Date Of Campaign: 8 May 2020 to 1 June 2020
Background: In 2020, worldwide lockdowns due to COVID-19 were causing massive cabin fever with people desperate to leave the confines of their home. Sentosa, Singapore’s holiday island, was not as famous as Phuket or Hawaii but the playing ground was levelled as the pandemic kept every island resort off-limits.This was an opportunity for us to bring the best of Sentosa to people stuck at home, allowing them to go on a holiday from the safety of their sofas. The opportunity was not just amongst consumers but also travel and lifestyle publications who had nothing to write about. We saw a chance to create new news for them when every other travel destination was shut down.
Idea: We moved Sentosa onto Animal Crossing, tapping into the zeitgeist of digital utopias to escape reality. In 12 days, we crafted an island resort from scratch, based on its real-world 50.7m sqft counterpart. As the first destination to be recreated within 2020’s breakout game Animal Crossing, Virtual Sentosa became the perfect virtual vacation in a world under lockdown and for visitors old and new to “visit” from afar. We painstakingly replicated 18 attractions, filling the digital island with replicas of its real-life cafes, water parks, dance festivals, resorts, spas and even down to the amenities basket in the island’s resorts. Our real-life island brands were given a digital makeover and included on the island, providing free publicity for local island businesses during tough economic times. The customer experience was thoroughly considered, and the virtual island was even run like a real holiday destination, with hourly tours, brand experience guides on hand, bespoke souvenirs, free yoga sessions by the virtual beach and social-media worthy photo spots. We built on organic interest from influencers and invited them to livestream their visits on Twitch, and also hosted weddings and birthdays to create even more content angles. In addition, we reached out to journalists, hosting curated tours and giving them a new, fascinating angle to cover travel during lockdown. Virtual Sentosa is the first tourism destination without any visas, restrictions or quarantine periods, letting anyone escape for a little break and helping to put Sentosa top of their minds when the world opens up again.
Results: With no paid media, Virtual Sentosa became one of the most widely reported destinations in 2020, reaching more people than ever before with over 300 headlines across every continent (except Antarctica) and category, entering the mainstream with over 7.5B impressions and $2.66M SGD in media value.It received kudos from TripAdvisor, made the ‘must visit’ list for top travel journalists, was commended by politicians, was featured on primetime news from Singapore to Peru, and mentioned in many social conversations. Searches for Sentosa were higher (versus Hawaii and Phuket) in our key markets of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and India. We hosted visitors ranging from travel brands to travel influencers, parents throwing their kids a surprise birthday party, and even a couple looking for a different wedding location. Over 44,000 visited the website and 15,000 individuals registered for a chance to visit, with visitors spending more than 15,000 minutes on the island. Virtual Sentosa was recognised as a “breakout effort in tourism marketing” by Hypebeast and Conde Nast has called it a case study in how tourism marketing can innovate and connect with future travelers, putting Sentosa top of mind when the world reopens.