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On the heels of the caning of American Michael Fay, the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board hired Aaron D. Cushman & Associates for a one-year, six-figure public relations contract in the U.S.

Americans might seem to have reasons to avoid the Far Eastern hub after news of the punishment meted out by Singapore officials for the teen's vandalism conviction. But Cushman executives see the publicity as a plus.

"What that incident served to do was focus attention on Singapore as a very safe and relatively crime-free destination," said Meredith Pillon, a senior VP at the agency's New York office. "And crime has become a very serious concern of travelers in the last two years."

Cushman's communications about Singapore will focus on the "clean and green" aspects of the destination, without directly addressing crime.

"The media have already done a good job of that," Ms. Pillon said.

Cushman will concentrate on promoting Singaporean cuisine, shopping, special events and corporate meetings.

Judging from early tourism numbers, Singapore may have little to worry about over bad press from flogging foreign nationals. For the first four months of '94, U.S. arrivals are up 18% from a year ago, to 119,617, Ms. Pillon said.

Cushman takes over the PR reins for the tourist board account from the Fontayne Group, Santa Monica, Calif.

Batey Ads, Los Angeles, handles advertising for the board and Singapore Airlines, and coordinates their joint promotions.

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