Businesses in Singapore plan post-haze blitz to draw consumers

Ms Belinda Lim, co-owner of The Wine Company, says the restaurant is waiving the $8,000 minimum spend to hold functions at its three outlets as it tries to earn back what it lost from cancellations during the haze.
Ms Belinda Lim, co-owner of The Wine Company, says the restaurant is waiving the $8,000 minimum spend to hold functions at its three outlets as it tries to earn back what it lost from cancellations during the haze.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Businesses hit by losses due to prolonged haze planning year-end promotions

SINGAPORE - Several attractions and businesses in Singapore, hoping to recoup losses from the recent haze, are planning discounts and promotions to attract customers during the year-end holiday season.

The prolonged haze this year, they told The Straits Times, has put a dent in takings and it is crucial that they do not miss out on the year-end trade - typically the busiest business period of the year.

"Now that the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) is lower, we want to have promotions to encourage locals and tourists to do what they normally do at the end of the year. We don't want them to avoid the outdoors anymore," said Ms Wendy Leong, general manager of City Tours, which operates open- top bus tours around the island. "The fear is that they won't return at the year end," she said.

Ridership, she said, fell by 8 per cent in September compared with the same month last year.

She is still finalising what discounts to roll out, but has gifts for riders planned as well as additional perks such as a free ride with every pass purchased.

Mr Kevin Cheong, chairman of the Association of Singapore Attractions, said 49 of its members that operate attractions were "affected in some way or another by the haze".

The 46-year-old's attraction, 4D AdventureLand in Sentosa, has welcomed about 1,150 visitors daily since the haze struck, down from 1,300 - a drop of about 12 per cent.

Mr Cheong will be rolling out some post-haze promotions and meeting Singapore Tourism Board representatives this week to brainstorm how to tackle this collectively, he said.

"I'm thinking we could team up to hold a post-haze festival or offer joint promotions during the December holidays," he said, adding that 4D AdventureLand is considering free entry for seniors and children.

"We want to get people out of their homes again. The last two months of the year are our peak business period."

Restaurants, too, are trying to find ways to shore up business.

Ms Belinda Lim, co-owner of The Wine Company, is waiving the $8,000 minimum spend to hold functions at the restaurant's three outlets at Changi Village, Sentosa Boardwalk and Dempsey Hill - all with large outdoor seating areas.

"I am desperate to earn back what we have lost. We had so many cancellations for events and reservations during the haze," she said, adding that revenue fell by 30 per cent after the haze descended upon Singapore.

The 52-year-old now also gives patrons a free glass of wine during the haze, a new initiative.

Old Hong Kong Kitchen in Novena has sent a $10 voucher to each of its 10,000 contacts and regular customers to use on the Deepavali public holiday today.

Its owner Victoria Li said business fell by about 20 per cent on weekends. "We really want to encourage people to come back out and eat, especially since it is a public holiday."

Even outlets in the heartland, like Next Door Deli in Ang Mo Kio, are getting creative.

Its owner Wei Chan said business at the cafe fell by about 15 per cent over the past few months. If haze conditions return, he will roll out promotions like a 20 per cent discount for main dishes.

Other industry players, including malls, are also taking steps to encourage people to go out.

Mr Jason Loy, CapitaLand Mall Asia's head of operations here, said it is testing plastic-covered walkways "with air filtration capability to keep out haze particles" in front of the automatic sliding doors at three CapitaLand malls - Junction 8, JCube and Bugis+.

"Depending on the results of our study, we will decide whether to roll out this initiative across all CapitaLand malls," he said.

Teacher Gina Chua, 32, said: "I'm quite excited to get back to doing outdoor activities and if there is a promotion or a discount, I might choose to go there instead of somewhere else," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'Post-haze blitz to draw consumers'. Print Edition | Subscribe