Monday, 18 Jan 2021

Tourism vouchers: More choices with multiple redemption platforms, say observers

SINGAPORE – A single platform to redeem the soon-to-be-distributed digital tourism vouchers would be ideal, but having options has its draws too, observers say.

The five online booking platforms appointed by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to administer the redemption of the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers are courting merchants and consumers ahead of the scheme’s launch next Tuesday (Dec 1).

Complimentary e-vouchers, food and beverage credits, and exclusive discounts are among the perks being dangled by Changi Recommends, GlobalTix, Traveloka, Trip.com and Klook to encourage Singaporeans to spend their $100 vouchers on their platforms.

Eligible hotels, leisure attractions and tour operators can choose to list on as many of the five platforms as they wish to tailor their own offerings and bundles.

But having too many platforms can confuse consumers, said Dr Kevin Cheong, chairman of the Association of Singapore Attractions.

“We hope this doesn’t frustrate the redemption process because expectations are high and it’s important to deliver,” he added.

STB said in response to queries that “creating a unified booking platform from scratch, or requiring physical counters with every booking partner, would not have been practical, timely or cost-effective”.

Still, some industry players said having different platforms can result in competition and more choices for merchants.

Dr Cheong said: “Some may choose to go on all five platforms, others will go with just one. At least there are options.”

While merchants will have to pay a commission to the booking platforms, STB said it helped to secure a “much lower range of commission rates”.

The five booking platforms declined to disclose the commission rates they charge to merchants participating in the voucher scheme.

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But businesses on board the platforms told The Straits Times that the rates can range from zero to 12 per cent, down from 20 per cent to 25 per cent normally.

Trip.com said it will be investing $2 million in marketing and partnership efforts for the campaign, and expediting payment to merchants to help them with cash flow.

GlobalTix, a local technology provider that powers the booking platforms of tourism operators like Gardens by the Bay, will launch a dedicated site for its roughly 100 partner merchants participating in the voucher scheme.

Traveloka said it is working closely with its more than 200 partner merchants to create offerings that can be showcased in sections such as “hidden gems” and “special promotions”.

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Ms Sarah Wan, Klook’s marketing director for South-east Asia, said it will kick off with more than 200 merchants on its platform, including 14 exclusive tie-ups.

Merchants that sell their products exclusively on Klook can expect better placements on its platform, Ms Wan said.

Tour operator Tribe is among those have taken up Klook’s offer. “We felt they were the strongest in terms of marketing to locals and could give us disproportionate coverage by going exclusive,” said Tribe founder Jason Loe.

Tribe’s offerings will include its popular escape room game/guided tour hybrid launched earlier this year.

Dr Cheong, who is also Sentosa 4D AdventureLand’s executive director, said the fees charged by the platforms are “equitable”, adding that STB has taken concerns about potential profiteering seriously and ensured transaction costs are transparent.

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Ms Margaret Heng, executive director of the Singapore Hotel Association, said the vouchers will go a long way in encouraging domestic expenditure at tourism businesses.

With border restrictions limiting tourist arrivals, the average occupancy rate for hotel rooms remained “significantly below the optimal level” in September at 60 per cent, Ms Heng said.

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