Hotels take action to boost tourist numbers

Five hotel groups team up with firm in $2m overseas marketing campaign

FIVE major hotel companies are taking matters into their own hands to boost the dwindling number of tourists here, and to protect their own rice bowls.

The hotel groups and GTA - a firm that helps them sell their rooms to travel agents abroad - have put aside a total of $2 million to drive their own overseas marketing campaign featuring 22 of their hotels.

The year-long campaign began on April 1 and will involve three-day roadshows in at least 12 cities. They are mostly second- tier markets like Kochi in India and Busan in South Korea, where Singapore and the hotels are less well known, said GTA regional vice-president of sales and marketing Daryl Lee, who is driving the campaign. Campaigns will be customised for each city. In India, for instance, hotels will offer packages with vegetarian food options.

GTA will meet the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) next month to make sure their campaign does not clash with the government agency's. STB's director of hotels and sector manpower, Ms Ong Huey Hong, said: "We welcome such initiatives by industry players. In an increasingly competitive environment, we need more promotional activities to excite potential visitors about Singapore as a vibrant destination."

The companies involved are FRHI Hotels and Resorts, Global Premium Hotel, Far East Hospitality, Resorts World Sentosa and The Ritz-Carlton.

Mr Eddie Lim, 40, chief executive of Global Premium Hotel, which owns the Fragrance and Park Sovereign hotel chains, said: "When you compare the market now to the tourism boom years when the integrated resorts first opened, room rates and occupancy were much higher then. But now, visitor numbers are dropping and yet the number of hotel rooms is increasing year on year.

"We have to keep working to maintain our current revenues. It's going to be more challenging. So that's good if we have our own campaign."

The number of hotels in Singapore jumped from 373 in 2013 to 392 last year, injecting 2,154 rooms into the market, latest STB figures show. The average occupancy rate stood at 85 per cent last year, down 1 per cent from 2013. The average room rate was $258 per night, down 0.2 per cent.

Several hotels are slated to open this year, including the 557-room Genting Hotel Jurong on April 30, the 442-room Park Hotel Alexandra next month and the 157-room Patina in the Central Business District, which will open in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, tourist arrivals have fallen from 15.6 million in 2013 to 15.1 million last year - the first drop since 2009. There were 2.4 million visitors in the first two months of this year, a 5 per cent decline year on year.

Ms Audrey Chung, Far East Hospitality's head of global sales and marketing, said the new campaign would help the 10-hotel chain, which runs boutique hotels like The Quincy and Oasia, "drive numbers not just to our hotels, but to Singapore as well".

Resorts World Sentosa said that the campaign is a chance to "reach out to travel agents in second-tier cities that we don't normally have contact with".

To sell their rooms, hotels here generally advertise in target countries. They also work with travel agents and aggregator firms like GTA and promote their website to draw direct bookings.

Swiss firm GTA processes more than 21,000 global hotel bookings a day. This is the first time it has teamed up with hotels for such a campaign.

Hotels like Santa Grand Hospitality, which is not involved in the campaign, said it relies on direct sales and online travel agencies but would consider joining such an event if it was invited. Marketing manager Derik Poh said: "We are small. We can't do roadshows overseas."

limjess@sph.com.sg