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A Ground-Breaking Study Reveals What Travellers Are Feeling in Real-Time

March 31, 2017 Statistics & Trends No Comments Email Email

Travel guides have long been the go-to planning tool for aspiring travellers, however a travel guide curated by visitors’ real-time emotions could change the way Australians plan their holidays.

The first-of-its-kind research, commissioned by Singapore Tourism Board, was the result of studying five Australian families as they holidayed in the popular tropical island city of Singapore. All family members, including children, wore EEG headsets as they explored the Lion City’s multicultural neighbourhoods, diverse culinary scene, theme parks, nature-based activities and iconic ‘only in Singapore’ attractions. The headsets captured the brain’s electrical activity to measure emotional responses of ‘fun’, ‘happiness’, ‘stress’, ‘interest’, ‘excitement’ and ‘relaxation’.

Joel Pearson, Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), oversaw the research project in conjunction with Singapore Tourism Board Oceania. The research revealed fascinating insights which can help future travellers plan their next visit, including:

Finding 1: Family members were ‘happiest’ in places that were unique to the destination

Known for her innovativeness, this can be seen in some of Singapore’s most iconic attractions and are ‘must-visits’ for all visitors.

  • Family members were ‘happiest’ when experiencing activities and places that are unique to Singapore, such as Gardens by the Bay and Sands SkyPark Observation Deck at Marina Bay Sands.

Finding 2: Food is a holiday highlight and an experience in itself

Many holidays are centred around food and Singapore provides a sensory overload with options ranging from local Singaporean fare to Michelin-starred restaurants:

  • Children were 10% ‘happier’ eating local Singaporean food such as kaya toast (a traditional breakfast of coconut jam and toast) or an authentic meal at a hawker centre, than Western style equivalents.
  • For instance, eating chilli crab for the first time induced similar levels of ‘excitement’ and ‘stress’ as riding the MegaZip zip line on Sentosa Island.

Finding 3: The best things in life are free… Families measured high positive readings in activities that didn’t cost anything

Family holidays don’t have to be costly to be enjoyable and there’s plenty of free activities to experience the best of Singapore.

  • Parents will be pleased to know that free experiences, such as exploring cultural neighbourhoods (Chinatown, Little India and the Malay-Arab area of Kampong Glam) and unforgettable nature activities like the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay – rate equally in ‘interest’, ‘relaxation’ and ‘excitement’, whilst overall, the families felt 21% ‘happier’ and experienced 11% more ‘fun’ compared to paid experiences. 

Finding 4: Parents may be surprised to know… there is no need to avoid galleries and education-based experiences, children enjoy them

Travelling can be an educational experience and for kids, the best way to learn is when they are having fun and Singapore’s many attractions and museums combine the two:

  • Both adults and children rated high levels of ‘interest’ for education-based experiences including ArtScience Museum’s ‘Future World’ exhibition
  • In fact, children’s levels of ‘interest’ at ‘Future World’ – the interactive digital exhibition where art evolves with the visitor’s participation – were on-par with readings at the famous Singapore Zoo.

Finding 5: For ‘excitement’, head to Sentosa Island or visit the Zoo

Sentosa is the epicentre of family-fun in Singapore, providing many opportunities for fun, family bonding experiences:

  • Sentosa Island was found to be the number one location for family-based ‘excitement’, with the MegaZip zip line and ClimbMax rope course offering a thrill for both kids and adults.
  • Children demonstrated the highest levels of ‘excitement’ at Singapore’s much-loved wildlife parks including the world-first Night Safari, the iconic fenceless Singapore Zoo, and E.A. Aquarium.

Associate Professor Joel Pearson commented: “The results of the Singapore based Neuro-Tourism study have revealed some interesting, objective insights into the emotional response of Australian families to Singapore. The findings suggest that the ingredients for a ‘perfect’ family holiday include two key components:

Firstly, families should immerse themselves in the destination’s culture, whether that be exploring the cultural precincts, or trying the local cuisine. Secondly, visiting the iconic ‘only in Singapore’ style activities such as the Merlion produces intense happiness and satisfaction.”

Sharon Lam, Area Director Oceania, Singapore Tourism Board added: “Singapore provides endless possibilities for visiting families, from activities and attractions to cultural neighbourhoods and our rich culinary scene, all underpinned by our reputation for safety, cleanliness and ease. This study enables us to see the kinds of emotions our visitors are actually feeling as they explore Singapore, and we’re excited by where this technology can take tourism in the future.”

Available Media Assets

  • Graphs and charts corresponding to the above findings are available on request.
  • Interviews are available with family participants including popular family blogger Fat Mum Slim (Chantelle Ellem) and Michael and Carlene Duffy, the renovation duo from The Block.


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