Just as I hopped onto a Qantas flight for Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board revealed the results from a study that got inside the heads of five Australian families as they holidayed in the tropical island.
Kitted out with EEG headsets, the families explored the Lion City's multicultural neighbourhoods, explored the food scene, rode the theme parks, enjoyed nature-based activities and experienced iconic 'only in Singapore' attractions.
These sci-fi headsets captured the brain's electrical activity to measure emotional responses of 'fun', 'happiness', 'stress', 'interest', 'excitement' and 'relaxation'.
The project was overseen by Joel Pearson, Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in conjunction with Singapore Tourism Board Oceania.
What did they find out?
Finding 1: Family members were 'happiest' in places that were unique to the destination.
In Singapore, that means places such as 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.
As I experienced today, Singapore provides a sensory overload with options ranging from local Singaporean fare to Michelin-starred restaurants that might even be a hawker stall.
Unexpectedly, children were 10 percent 'happier' when eating local Singaporean food like kaya toast (a traditional breakfast of coconut jam and toast) or a local cuisine at a hawker centre than Western style meals.
Who would have thought eating chilli crab for the first time would induce comparable levels of 'excitement' and 'stress' as riding a MegaZip zip line on Sentosa Island?
Finding 3: Families measured high positive readings in activities that were free.
It costs nothing to explore cultural neighbourhoods (Chinatown, Little India and the Malay-Arab area of Kampong Glam) and nature activities like the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay rate equally in 'interest', 'relaxation' and 'excitement'. Overall, families felt 21 percent 'happier' and experienced 11 percent more 'fun' compared to paid experiences.
Finding 4: You don't have to avoid galleries and education-based experiences because children enjoy them!
The best way for kids to learn is when they are having fun. Singapore's attractions and museums offer a great combination.
ArtScience Museum's surprising 'Future World' exhibition rated highly for both adults and children in 'interest'. (I loved this interactive experience.)
The levels of 'interest' from children at 'Future World' were similar to those recorded at Singapore Zoo.
Finding 5: The highest 'excitement' was experienced at Sentosa Island or Singapore Zoo.
Sentosa Island's MegaZip zip line and ClimbMax rope course rated highly both for kids and adults.
Children registered the highest levels of 'excitement' at Singapore's world-first Night Safari at Singapore Zoo and E.A. Aquarium.
Associate Professor Joel Pearson said “The results of the Singapore-based Neuro-Tourism study have revealed some interesting 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.”
Disclaimer: Ed+bK travelled to Singapore with the support of the Singapore Tourism Board.