Goodbye Merlion, hello Merli! SBT injects new life into old friend (video)

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The Merlion has been a marketing symbol of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) since 1966, the lion-headed fish recognised internationally as representing Singapore. At 52 though, the Merlion is starting to show its age.  Enter Merli.

‘Say what’ I hear you ask? Is that a typo? Didn’t you just like, forget the ‘o’ and the ‘n’?  While that might at first appear to be the case, Merli represents much more than that dropping a couple of letters. It’s a whole new image.

Packed with energy, vitality, and vibrancy that its earlier water spewing (Singaporeans are said to substitute the word ‘Merlion” as slang for vomiting) incantation can’t compete with, Merli oozes dynamic, cheeky, fun. Exactly the qualities you want to induce if you are trying to package Singapore as a tourism destination for families with young children.

Created by Big 3 Media, the energetic and outgoing Merli is popping up in SBT placements around the world, highlighting the best and most interesting places to visit and things to do in Singapore.

Describing Merli as possessing a ‘can-do’ attitude and great enthusiasm for discovering more about Singapore, STB brand director Lim Shoo Ling told Channel NewsAsia it is hoped that Merli will resonate particularly well with families.

Inbound tourist arrivals continue to grow in leaps and bounds Video Winning With Winston

And with regard to the ‘o’ and the ‘n’. In addition to being an abbreviation of the word Merlion, ‘Merli’ is also a variant of ‘Merly’ – one of the two mascots featured by the organising committee in the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games (YOG).

In addition to having a wide network of friends of all races, religions, and social status’, Merli is known to have a preference for kaya toast; toasted bread topped with a generous serving of thick, sweet coconut jam (kaya) that is popular throughout Singapore (and several other Asian countries)

Introducing Merli to Singapore commenced in the middle of the year with free Merli stickers being given away, while Merli was also featured in GIF comments and stickers on various social media platforms.

China leads Singapore tourist arrivals and spending

Singapore tourism has been experiencing a steady rise in leisure visitor numbers. Preliminary estimates show that inbound 2017 Singapore tourist arrivals grew by 6.2 per cent to 17.4 million people, with tourism receipts up 3.9 per cent to S$26.8 billion (about US$19.6 million).

That came on top of a 13.9 per cent increase in tourism receipts to S$24.8 billion and a 7.7 per cent increase in arrivals to 16.4 million in 2016.

The tourism industry contributes about 4 per cent to Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP), with 2017 seeing the sector record a second year of highs in both inbound tourism expenditure and arrivals.

As is becoming increasingly common, Singapore’s largest source of inbound foreign tourists in 2017 originated from China, with inbound tourist arrivals increasing by 13 per cent to 3.23 million, pushing previous top spot holder Indonesia to second place with three million foreign tourists. Tourists from China retained the top spenders spot for the third year running.

In addition to China and Indonesia, tourists from India, Malaysia, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, the United States, and Vietnam all helped fuel the Singapore tourism sector’s growth in 29017.

China, Indonesia, and India were the top three tourism-receipt-generating markets last year with 40 per cent, logging S$4.2 billion, S$2.7 billion, and S$1.6 billion, respectively, despite Indonesia registering a 7 per cent decline.

STB says it is “generally optimistic” that the number of visitor arrivals will edge up by 1 to 4 per cent to reach 17.6 million to 18.1 million visitor arrivals this year, with tourism receipts projected to rise by 1 to 3 per cent to S$27.1 billion to S$27.6 billion.



Feature Video Singapore Tourism Board




  • Singapore goes after hearts of families and children with baby Merlion (TTG Asia)
  • Singapore Tourism Board creates cartoon character to help with global marketing efforts (Mumbrella Asia)
  • STB introduces Merli in a bid to attract families with young children (Marketing Interactive)



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Stella-maris Ewudolu

Journalist at AEC News Today

Stella-maris graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, Education from Ebonyi State University, Nigeria in 2005.

Between November 2010 and February 2012 she was a staff writer at Daylight Online, Nigeria writing on health, fashion, and relationships. From 2010 – 2017 she worked as a freelance screen writer for ‘Nollywood’, Nigeria.

She joined AEC News Today in December 2016.

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