Online bookings for group tours and FIT guide apps

Established in 2006, Miramar Travel has 11 branches in Hong Kong and two in Macau. Positioning itself as a one-stop department store for the mass market, group tours comprise half of business, followed by FIT packages (30 per cent) and air tickets (20 per cent).

Online sign-ups for group tours have historically been rare in Hong Kong, but Miramar pioneered such a concept in October 2012, rolling out a group tour online booking system that enables consumers to instantly book and pay by credit card. Last December, the agency went further by making this service available to mobile phone users through an app.

General manager, Alex Lee, said: “In order to help clients familiarise with our tour choices, we have invested in a multimedia programme called V-itin that features our tour destinations worldwide with day-to-day itineraries combining attractions, luxury hotels and cuisines.

“The app is tailormade, and videos are recorded by our film crew then uploaded to the website for viewing. Unlike FITs, our target clients have a destination in mind but no idea what they will be doing. This tool shows what they get and helps save time and effort for our counter staff.”

Additionally, Miramar has introduced its own Guide Apps covering Taipei, Tokyo, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Jinan for FITs. Content includes information on hotels, cuisine and shopping, as well as maps and transport options.

Miramar’s app for Hong Kong

Post-financial crisis, Miramar relooked at the potential of technology in the wake of staff cuts and tighter budgets.

Lee said: “Moreover, the Internet has transformed how people work. Devices like email, tablets and smartphones keep people online anytime and anywhere so they have to bear with longer working hours while private time suffers.

“I foresaw that consumers would have lesser time to visit agency branch counters and shop around, so e-commerce could be an alternative to help them search for travel information and make instant purchases.”

Besides reaching out to young, tech-savvy locals with its latest initiatives, Miramar is also targeting overseas Chinese visiting Hong Kong who have started to use online booking tools to purchase tour products.

Declining to reveal specific figures, Lee said online transactions have been growing and performance even exceeds physical stores. “I reckon this can be attributed to our better price strategy for online. It’s usually about HK$100-300 (US$13-38) lower than what we offer at our travel counters,” he explained.

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