Whether it’s discovering new revenue streams or warding off existing threats, travel companies across Asia are evolving. Take a leaf from success stories told to TTG Asia.
Wee Hee Ling
Offline buying online
WHO CTC Travel, a Singapore-based travel company providing leisure and corporate services, well known for its outbound packages.
WHAT Last month, it announced that it had acquired an 80 per cent stake in Singapore-based MISA Travel, whose strength lies in online travel ticketing services. MISA’s various online ticketing channels will now come under CTC, including airfares.com.sg, hotels.com.sg, cruises.com.sg, getaways.com.sg, resorts.com.sg, landtours.com.sg and rails.com.sg.
The two companies will retain their separate brand identities, although there will be some integration in the areas of product development, marketing, human resources and finance. For instance, CTC-designed products will be sold on MISA’s numerous websites, which might be enhanced with live-booking capabilities at a later stage.
WHY With technological know-how provided by MISA, CTC will now be able to tap the burgeoning online booking space, reaching out to new markets.
“MISA Travel’s online portals stand to offer instant access, affordable options for travel products which will provide an opportunity to manage distressed air tickets and hotel inventory for all travellers”, said CEO Wee Hee Ling. The merger marks the beginning of CTC’s three-year plan, which includes expanding its corporate travel services such as MICE and inbound tours.
Luxury Tours & Travel
B2C + B2B
WHO Luxury Tours & Travel, a Singapore-based tour operator that provides a range of services from hotel reservations to seat-in coach tours.
WHAT It launched the Singapore Tripper Pass last November, a two- or three-day pass that includes entrance to 18 attractions in Singapore, while also acting as a cashcard for public transport.
Luxury is also signing white label agreements with travel companies across Asia, allowing their products to be featured on its website. A revamped site will be unveiled this year.
In addition, the company is in the process of closing its tour desks in Singapore and migrating all its products online.
WHY Director Michael Lee explained that competition was intensifying among offline and online players in Singapore, and profit margins were shrinking. Alternative sources of revenue were needed, he added.
“Travel companies that work with us through our white label agreements will have an additional means of revenue while we earn commission. Conversely, the Singapore Tripper Pass will enable us to reach out directly to consumers without alienating our existing business partners,” Lee said.
General manager, outbound travel
Dynasty Travel International
WHO Dynasty Travel International, a Singapore-based travel company that sells mainly outbound tours.
WHAT In 2010, it launched the Royale Dynasty brand and opened a Royale Dynasty retail outlet at Marina Bay Sands, targeting high net worth clients. The new brand caters to Singaporeans willing to spend more on top-tier experiences, as well as inbound travellers keen on local or regional sightseeing trips. Services include private jet arrangements, personal tour guides and a travel concierge who can draw up customised itineraries.
WHY “An increasing number of affluent travellers, both in Singapore and internationally,” said Juliana Gan, general manager of outbound travel. The two integrated resorts offer a rich source of clients for Royale Dynasty. Singapore’s upcoming International Cruise Terminal will also provide opportunities to service luxury cruise clients.
The company has seen a 20 per cent increase in luxury customers since 2010.
Reaching Down Under
WHO Headquartered in Vietnam, Luxury Travel is a tour operator focusing on high-end travellers. Top markets are Australia, the US and Singapore.
WHAT It entered into a joint-venture with Australia-based The Cape Club to form Cape Lux Travels in October 2011. The marriage brings together Luxury’s expertise in Indochina with The Cape Club’s client base. The top five destinations sold by The Cape Club are Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.
Cape Lux Travels will introduce new fully-escorted tours to wealthy clients from Australia initially, and later to those from the US, UK and Europe. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are its first three destinations.
WHY To widen Luxury’s reach in the Australian market, one of its top markets. “The Cape Club understands Australian luxury travellers and creates beautiful niche experiences for guests,” said CEO Pham Ha. The joint venture is expected to attract 500 to 700 clients in the first year of operations.
Managing director, sales & distribution
Panorama Tours Indonesia
Beefing up FIT retail
WHO Panorama Tours Indonesia, an outbound travel company which handles the corporate, MICE and leisure markets.
WHAT With already a division dedicated to groups, it developed a strategy to target the FIT market beginning last year, creating free-and-easy packages. It has also opened one retail outlet targeting young travellers, with 10 more on the way. Products can be bought a la carte or as special deals. Examples include backpacker packages and special interest packages for those who travel to watch soccer games. Destinations sold are mostly shorthaul, such as Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
WHY Managing director, sales & distribution, Helen Xu, said: “The FIT outbound market in Indonesia is huge, but many travel companies are not interested in seriously developing it. Most of them concentrate on developing group tour programmes. We see this as an opportunity.” She added that last year, retail FIT business increased by 70 per cent compared to 2010.
Director & CEO
Impression Tourism Services (India)
Re-invent a destination
WHO Impression Tourism Services (India), a Kolkata-based B2B inbound travel company.
WHAT Developed a range of products and created a new branding for West Bengal, its primary destination. Mountains to Mangroves – A Journey of 1,000 Kilometres has helped to highlight the diversity within the Indian state, from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The auspicious Bengal owl was also used as a mascot for marketing the products and destination.
WHY Director and CEO Debjit Dutta said the company faced price competition for oft-trodden itineraries, while product development for West Bengal had been stagnant in 10 years. “Instead of taking a beating from OTAs, we decided to re-invent the destination and create several products.” Impression is now readily identified with the destination. Once a small tour operator, it currently serves 900 B2B clients.
Identify gaps online
WHO Gursahani group, whose diversified interests range from technology to healthcare. Its travel division Travelmartindia is said to be India’s first e-commerce travel portal. Travelmartindia is supported by an offline arm, offering airline tickets, hotels, leisure packages and MICE arrangements.
WHAT Gursahani group entered the group-buy deal space last year with vamoose.in, which is currently being integrated into Travelmartindia’s website.
It also launched myairporttransfers.in last year, offering chauffeur-driven car rental services for airport and railway station transfers in all major cities in India. This operates as both a B2B and B2C model.
WHY The new ventures were in response to “dynamic changes in the marketplace” as well as “to cater to specific niches and address existing gaps”, said chairman Manoj Gursahani.
Jo Jo Chan
Director and general manager
Wing On Travel
WHO Hong Kong’s Wing On Travel is known for its premium outbound travel services. Chinese OTA Ctrip bought a majority stake in Wing On Travel’s travel service segment in 2010.
WHAT Last August, it rolled out iWingon.com, an online hotel booking portal offering 17,000 hotels in 500 Chinese cities. Customers pay only upon check-in and no bank charges are incurred.
In November, the My Group concept was launched, allowing private groups (minimum 10 pax) to book Wing On’s signature group tour itineraries, based on standard fares. Bigger groups have more discounts.
WHY “With Ctrip’s strong back-up, we wanted to expand our business and be the market leader. Ultimately, the group wants to become a leader in Asia through product innovation and value-added services,” said director and general manager Jo Jo Chan.
Tan Sin Chong
Go the franchise way
WHO Reliance Travel, a Malaysia-based outbound travel company.
WHAT Boosting business through franchising. While initial franchised outlets were concentrated in the city of Kuala Lumpur, they have spread out to the suburbs. Last August, Reliance opened its 15th franchise, some 30km away from the city.
WHY Said executive director Raymond Lee: “(The franchised outlets) increase our reach and brand presence, and collectively portray a strong brand visibility for Reliance in most key urban areas with high population bases.”
Additional income is also generated. Franchised outlets currently contribute 40 per cent of Reliance’s total sales compared to 20 per cent three to five years ago, Lee added. The company has plans to expand its franchise network to other big cities over the next two years.
Star Travel Corp
Cutting out the middle
WHO Star Travel Corp, a Taiwanese outbound travel company that counts Japan as its bestselling destination.
WHAT Tackling cost increases by eliminating the middle man. Taiwanese travel companies usually rely on local contacts in Japan to book hotels and on-the-ground services, “so nobody here knows what the real price is”, said CEO Vincent Liu.
Last year, Star Travel decided to deal directly with Japanese suppliers. With pre-paid bookings, the company was also able to negotiate lower prices.
WHY The March 11 earthquake and tsunami resulted in Japanese companies repatriating funds from overseas, forcing the Japanese yen to strengthen. What was once Star Travel’s most profitable business sector (outbound to Japan) was under threat, as the Japanese yen rose 20 per cent against the NT dollar. Going direct provided an effective hedge.
Additional reporting from Sirima Eamtako, Linda Haden, Mimi Hudoyo, Anand and Madhura Katti, Prudence Lui, Glenn Smith, N. Nithiyananthan and Shekhar Niyogi