Tuesday, September 29, 2020

From virtual tours to online stores, Singapore tourism companies boost digital offerings amid Covid-19

Aug 04. 2020
Chinatown Heritage Centre director Margaret Zhang and her team take product photos for the centre's e-shop. PHOTO: UNITED OVERSEAS BANK
Chinatown Heritage Centre director Margaret Zhang and her team take product photos for the centre's e-shop. PHOTO: UNITED OVERSEAS BANK
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By Aw Cheng Wei
The Straits Times/ANn

Chinatown Heritage Centre, Nam Ho among those generating new revenue streams online.

Companies that catered mostly to tourists before Covid-19 are beefing up digital offerings and redeploying resources amid prolonged travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

For instance, travel firm Nam Ho Group is planning to launch virtual tours of travel destinations as well as an online store selling popular overseas snacks and produce.

And, given the uptick in online shopping, it has also seconded 16 of its passenger vans to provide home delivery services. Its vehicles are helping to deliver orders made through e-commerce sites Lazada and Shopee.

Tintin Singapore, which sells comic-related memorabilia, is closing its Chinatown store at the end of this month after negotiations with its landlord fell through.

It has been spending more on digital advertising to attract local sales at its e-store and physical shop.

It is hunting for a new location, but, in the meantime, the shop is offering discounts of 30 per cent and free delivery within Singapore.

"At this moment, the mode is plain survival," a spokesman said.

With the discount, the company hopes to "generate enough cash flow to make sure our team's salary will not be affected much".

Results so far "have uplifted us a bit but, in the longer run, a better framework is needed to ensure our existence", he added.

Tourists, mostly from Indonesia, Australia, Hong Kong, India and the United States, made up 85 per cent of the shop's customers before Covid-19 hit. "We suffered huge losses," the spokesman said.

Chinatown Heritage Centre launched its e-shop on June 29 after its team attended a United Overseas Bank workshop advising small and medium-sized enterprises on how to go online.

Its director Margaret Zhang said: "By creating the e-shop and going online, more people will have access to our merchandise, including those who have not visited or those who are unable to visit our shophouse museum, as we are temporarily closed during the Covid-19 period."

The centre used to get 70 per cent of its revenue from tourists and the other 30 per cent from local student tours. It is progressively uploading all its merchandise to its e-shop, which will be a permanent offering.

Ms Zhang is encouraged by the local and overseas sales orders so far.

"We hope that the e-store will generate a new revenue stream for (the centre) in the near future."

Nam Ho director Marshall Ooi said the firm is "in the final stages of rolling out its virtual tour (which) allows individuals to explore new travel destinations from the comfort of their homes".

Its pre-Covid-19 annual revenue for Singapore was more than $55 million, split about evenly between inbound and outbound travel.

"Nam Ho's business in Singapore was growing in the beginning of the year until the news on Covid-19 broke out," Mr Ooi said, adding that revenue has since declined sharply and nearly been wiped out.

With the easing of international trade curbs, the firm has recently started working with overseas factories and suppliers to import their produce, which it plans to sell online.

E-commerce, logistics and warehousing will become Nam Ho's permanent business lines, Mr Ooi said.

He added: "The aim is to continue to excite customers by giving them opportunities to literally have a taste of renowned local food fare, even if they are unable to visit the country at the moment."

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