PHOTOS: Alibaba Group
Our lifestyles are quickly evolving as the digital age kills off the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ inexorably creeps in to our daily life. Goodby Kodak and Polaroid – hello smartphone cameras and Facebook. Goodbye newspapers – hello instant news websites, blogs and live-streaming.
The same is happening to retail as the shopfront moves to websites and screens around the world, shopping centres re-invent their approach to shoppers. We’ve heard of ‘new media’ – welcome now to ‘new retail’. E-commerce is already outmoded.
China’s Alibaba Group has launched what it calls the age of “New Retail”, which the online giant says will replace today’s “e-commerce”. New Retail will see the distinction between online and offline retail businesses soon disappear, the Chinese conglomerate said. The company is testing the new model at Hema, one of its New Retail brands, in Hangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and other large Chinese cities.
At Hema, a premium-quality supermarket front with a wide range of home delivery services, consumers living within a 3 kilometre radius can get home delivery of fresh food items, fruit (including Thai durians), vegetables and other daily necessities within 30 minutes of placing an order.
The service is part of a so-called 3-in-1 retail experience that covers tech-driven online delivery, in-store purchases and in-store consumption.
Big data and cloud computing are among the key infrastructures supporting the use of artificial intelligence where both online and offline platforms converge through mobile and enterprise technology. For example, consumers can visit the Hema intelligent supermarket when they wish, or may prefer to stay home on a rainy day and order anything, including fresh seafood like king crabs imported from Alaska, have them cooked in a preferred style and home-delivered.
The price of imported seafood in this instance is competitive largely because of Alibaba’s global reach for imported products, which are bought directly from suppliers without layers of middlemen.
At present, more than 50 Hema branches are operational in China where mobile payment is a key driver of the Chinese digital economy that has been expanding rapidly into foreign markets, such as Thailand.
Alipay, part of Alibaba Group’s Ant Financial, is helping to turn China into a cashless society as mobile phones and apps become the predominant payment platform.
In Thailand, Alipay’s merchant network now covers hundreds of thousands of locations across the country, especially in tourist areas, as a huge number of the nearly 10 million Chinese visitors to Thailand each year use such a payment platform.
In addition, Ant Financial and Thailand’s CP Group have jointly launched the TrueMoney Wallet to provide payment and other financial services using technology to promote a cashless society here.
For e-commerce customers, Lazada, also majority-owned by Alibaba Group, is currently the front-runner in the Thai market.
On a global scale, Alibaba is the world’s largest e-commerce retailer in terms of gross merchandise value with 552 million active consumers, as of March this year, mainly on its giant Taobao and Tmall platforms for Chinese consumers.
The group’s eco-system encompasses retail commerce, consumer service, wholesale commerce, digital media and entertainment as well as new innovative initiatives supported by logistic, payment, financial and cloud computing services.
James Xu, deputy chief representative of Alibaba Group’s Thailand market, said the group had already signed four MoUs with the Thai government to implement a wide range of collaborative programmes.
The group’s eco-system will be used to help leverage the Thailand 4.0 initiative with a focus on the Eastern Economic Corridor. In addition, Alibaba will help develop Thai small and medium enterprises (SMEs), farmers and financial services.
In the tourism sector, Fliggy, Alibaba’s online travel service platform, is working with Alipay and Thai tourism authorities to attract a new generation of Chinese tourists to Thailand and offer them a cashless travel experience.
SOURCE: The Nation Weekend
Phuket hotel watch – 3 months down, 9 to go in 2019
by Bill Barnett of C9Hotelworks.com
At the beginning of the year Phuket’s tourism and hotel sector was cautiously optimistic after a strong first half of 2018 and humbling second half. Key terms that kept popping up were Mainland Chinese, Thai Baht Appreciation, Elections and Supply Concerns.
So today, with three months of performance under the belt in 2019 what are the key trends in hotel trading? These can best be compressed in the following points –
According to data from hotel benchmarking group STR, Thailand remains Southeast Asia’s leading destination for Mainland Chinese, but the gloss is being diminished by Vietnam’s meteoric rise, and strong numbers by the Philippines and Cambodia.
Market-wide RevPar shunk by 0.04% in 2018 and flat demand at the onset of the year is now shifting into negative territory moving into February and beyond. Turning back to last year, group demand is falling which is as key concern in a wholesale driven marketplace.
One stark positive is that RevPar is being propped up by rates and not occupancy. A key takeaway is that in peak and high season, Phuket hotels are able to drive rates up in key periods and continue to do so. This of course is a broad trend. Good hotels tend to perform at higher levels, while poorly managed ones remain subpar.
Getting beyond the numbers, as I speak to hoteliers the expectation is that wholesalers remain a critical component of the island’s hotel industry and despite the expected shift with technology to more direct bookings, the reality is that wholesale models are sensitive to demand volatility and the result of this feeding frenzy most often will be either flat rates for the year or in some cases a retraction.
We expect the remainder of 2019 to be challenging. Some hotels will look at this as an opportunity to reposition, renovate or cut costs. While others will look at new segments, niche offerings or emerging markets like India to regain momentum.
As for the top critical issues facing Phuket hotels, in my opinion these can be distilled in the following Top 3 Things Keep Me Awake at Night…
• Mainland Chinese – If tourism players or hotels believe the damage to Brand Phuket is over, think again. Talking to key tour operators there remains a hangover from last year’s boat sinking incident and travellers remain keenly concerned over safety. Only time and more concentrated promotion will see a return of the numbers.
• Growing Supply and Demand Imbalance – The current pipeline is just over 8,000 keys in development on the island. What’s more concerning is that projects in planning are not represented in this metric, and by our estimate there are approximately 5,000 more keys in planning. While both the pipeline and planning numbers will see some wash, the sum total exceeds current and forecasted demand.
Moreso, the rise of unlicensed condominiums, apartments, houses and villas is continuing unabated and is further exacerbating supply issues. Every time you see a group of tourists renting a 3 or 4 bedroom villa, that’s three or four hotel rooms that lay empty. Government control of unlicensed properties is a key issue facing Phuket’s tourism industry.
• Diminished Natural Resources and Strained Infrastructure – Water tops the list and there is little doubt we are reaching the tipping point with mounting shortages and soaring demand. Electricity is another concern. Lastly is a rising number of vehicles on the road, a urbanising trajectory and slow development of roads and public transport.
To these point’s lets revisit the hotel development pipeline and reflect that a island long term master plan, zoning for new tourism expansion and requirements for developers to invest in public infrastructure to obtain operating licenses is sorely lacking. Something has to give on this front.
In conclusion am I pessimistic about Phuket’s tourism and hotel future in 2019 and beyond? Absolutely not, direct airlinks are growing and the island has a well-structured capacity for handling tourism, but I firmly believe looking into our problems, discussing and finding ways to resolve these are critical to a sustainable growth pattern.
‘Seastead’ set up off coast of Phuket
PHOTOS: Nation TV
A Thai couple has successfully set up a ‘Seastead’ near Phuket.
Seasteading is aiming to build floating societies with “significant political autonomy”. Nearly half the world’s surface is unclaimed by any nation-state, and many coastal nations can legislate “seasteads” in their territorial waters (like a “homestead” but wetter).
The nation TV reports that website ‘Bitcoin.com’ and ‘Ocean.builders’ report that the Thai couple Chad Elwartowski and Nadia Summergirl are are the first seasteaders who established a small seastead 12 nautical miles off Phuket.
Most of the construction of the Seasteading was built on the island of Phuket. The installation in the sea started on January 9.
Mr Elwartowski reveals that the reason that they have chosen to settle near Phuket as the construction price is cheap. The sea is suitable for the establishment as waves are not too high and can attract many tourists.
SOURCE: Nation TV
Massive 11 hotel project, surf club and waterpark for Kata, Phuket
by Bill Barnett, C9Hotelworks.com
Thai developer K.W. Plaza group has unveiled plans for a large-scale mixed-use project called The Beach Plaza on 15 rai, that will have 11 three and four star hotels with a total of 1.490 rooms. The developer is already pitching the unconstructed project to global hotel interests for an imminent sale.
The properties will have varying room sizes from 25 to 35 square metres and range in size from 78 to 204 rooms. Part of the development scheme will see the hotels individually sold off to hotel investors and/or operators.
Late last year the group built and sold the Surf Resort in Patong which was brokered by JLL to a Singapore-based owner/operator.
Other components of the project include a surf club, waterpark, and freestanding restaurants and retail.
An initial hotel has already obtained EIA approval and is currently for sale, with construction of other properties to be phased. The Beach Plaza is off-beach, behind the Kata Night Market and close to Club Med, Ozo and the Ibis.
For more details on the project click HERE.
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