Names of Recipients:
Mr. Lim Herh Kim
Ms. Wang Xiao Sheng
Incorporated in March 2012, Asia Pacific Tourism & Council Pte Ltd (APTCC) specializes in international school exchange programmes. Basically, the company collaborates with various education institutions in China, from elementary schools to universities, to bring their students over to Singapore to explore the education system as well as the culture here. Likewise, APTCC also works with schools in Singapore to send students for foreign exchange programmes. On an occasional basis, the company will also lead the participants to neighbouring countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
Formerly in the manufacturing sector, Mr. Lim Herh Kim, director of APTCC, had no prior experience with the tourism industry when he made the career switch. When he was retrenched from a big machine manufacturer in 2009, he signed up for a Workforce Skills Qualifications Diploma in Tourism through the Professional Conversion Programme that was organized by Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA). The one-year course was aimed at mid-career professionals like Mr. Lim. As a people person, Mr. Lim particularly enjoyed the course, which led him to take the entrepreneurial plunge and start up APTCC.
On the other hand, his business partner and director of APTCC, Ms. Wang Xiao Sheng, shared that her decision to start APTCC in Singapore was because of the fact that she was already in this line of business for more than a decade. Hence, her extensive experience lays the foundation for what they are dealing with. She was also attracted by Singapore’s unique advantages in educational tourism. As such, Mr. Lim and Ms. Wang co-operated and established APTCC three years ago. Since then, the duo has carved out a prominent name for the company within its sector.
Reflecting on the company’s success, Ms. Wang mentioned that it was not always easy to manage her own business. When they first went into business, their biggest challenge was to differentiate themselves from regular travel agents as they only support exchange programmes. Due to their services provided, it is also crucial for clients to place their trust in them. However, the company struggled to gain their customer’s trust, as they were still young then. Additionally, Mr. Lim had to take things step by step because he is still new to the industry. Thus, things were progressing at a very slow pace.
In the recent years, online booking of tours and tickets are on the rise. This has also impacted APTCC’s business, as people would rather choose the convenience of booking on the Internet than going all the way to them. To add on, there were certain events that affected the tourism industry adversely such as the Malaysia Airlines MH370 incident. People feared for the security of planes, deterring many from going overseas, much less to take part in international exchange programmes. Therefore, the company had to come up with solutions to combat such circumstances.
Nevertheless, business gradually picked up as Mr. Lim learned the ropes of the tourism industry. When asked how he eventually overcame the obstacles, Mr. Lim explained, “We began to customize tours and plan special itineraries which may include sightseeing in tourist spots and more. Also, we try to make our prices as affordable as possible.” With more attractive packages, more schools eventually chose APTCC as their desired partner for overseas exchange curriculums.
In Ms. Wang’s opinion, the company’s greatest business achievement was the ability to build strong relationships with individuals, institutions and enterprises from developed nations. This year marks another milestone for APTCC as they clinch their first award as one of Singapore’s Outstanding Enterprise. Mr. Lim feels immensely proud to be one of the 150 companies that was nominated and voiced that it is ‘something different’ for them. He hopes that the company will continue to attain such awards in recognition of their commendable work.
To differentiate themselves from their competitors, APTCC concentrates primarily on countries in Southeast Asia only. In addition to that, they have also implemented more educational content to make sure that students are able to experience studying abroad. When it comes to planning of programs, Mr. Lim makes sure that all places that the students will be visiting are suitable for their age group and are safe.
In the coming years, APTCC will continue to strengthen their business ties with the Singapore Tourism board and keep searching for more collaboration. They are also in the process of developing study tours and more customized trainings for participants. Mr. Lim disclosed that APTCC has also started hosting a number of China Governmental Training programmes for their staff. Ms. Wang stated, “Our aim is to cultivate leadership and innovation through these courses as well as allow students from the Asia Pacific region, especially those from China, to gain the knowledge they need to enter the borderless world.”
Mr. Lim, who is also a grassroot leader since 1979, was given the honour to receive the Public Service Medal (PBM) award in 2014. Also a member of Outram Secondary School Advisory Committee, Mr. Lim has surely proven to others that age certainly does not matter if you are committed to reach your goal. Ms. Wang, who cites Mr. Lim as her source of motivation and inspiration, is also grateful to have a capable leader with her at fore. APTCC surely has the potential to expand exponentially in the future.
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