Live streams deliver booking flood

SINGAPORE, 6 August 2020: I have to admit when Trip.com emailed me a press release, last week, saying it had recently sold more than 12,000 room nights for Singapore I hesitated. Who wants to be a laughing stock? 

Granted, Trip-com is arguably one of the largest online travel agencies in the world that can fall back on its vast selling power in China and even across the Asia-Pacific marketplace. But could it squeeze 12,000 room night bookings out of Singapore’s domestic and overseas markets for the nation’s hotels, especially among Chinese travellers when overseas travel from China remains restricted?

Trip.com says it did just that and totted up gross revenue of USD2.72 million in booking revenue generated by two live streams hosted in Singapore and China.

Trip.com Group co-founder and chairman James Liang felt confident enough to opine: “Singapore has demonstrated its capability in handling the outbreak, and it is no surprise that we see such strong demand for Singapore hotels and attractions in both the domestic and overseas markets.”

But I didn’t feel that confident. Like so many Covid-19 related stories, enthusiasm and hope shine bright but is someone enjoying a mythical moment when creating the storyline?

What we do know is that like its neighbours in Southeast Asia, Singapore’s tourism door remains firmly shut and is likely to stay that way for some time possibly until the end of the year or more.  Yes, there is a very limited green lane open to allow two-way official business visits with China, but would it be enough to generate 12,000 room nights?

Of course, like most commercially driven press releases these days, only half of the story is penned. The part that is missing might suggest the bookings were actually far down the track in the realm of advance bargains on hotel stays in 2021 that could be easily cancelled; full refunds guaranteed.

Or more likely, Trip.com tapped the ‘staycation’ trend in Singapore. That might give you 4,000 guest willing to stay three nights away from home.  Apparently, hotels and theme parks on Singapore’s Sentosa Island are packed out with Singaporean families, who head off for their ‘summer’ holiday break to a resort less than 10 km from their homes. That makes a change from Bali or a week on Phuket island both under lock and key. Sentosa has the resorts, theme parks, a casino and even some reasonably clean beaches for families to chill out while they snack on pizzas at beachside restaurants. Close your eyes, so you don’t see the container ships and oil refinery, and you could be Bintan, Samui or that favourite spot on Kuta, Bali.

As long as all the region’s beach resorts destinations are off-limits, then Sentosa is your a ‘Hobson’s choice.’ Orchard Road hotels are not enjoying the Covid-19 booking windfall. They are, unfortunately, deserted.

Trip.com said that Marina Bay Sands gained 2,600 rooms nights mainly from Chinese followed by bookings for Resorts World Sentosa, Hard Rock Hotel, and Fairmont Singapore. Please keep sending your press releases. I love a good chuckle.

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