STB, NATAS join forces to help travel agents stay competitive

Lionel Yeo, chief executive, STB, speaking at the inaugural Travel Agents Industry Forum

IN AN effort to help travel agents in Singapore deal with online competitors and manpower challenges, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) have jointly launched an initiative to help travel agents redesign their business models.

The Travel Agent Roadmap, launched yesterday at Singapore’s inaugural Travel Agents Industry Forum, aims to help agents move “beyond ticketing and order-taking” to become “designers of travel experiences”.

STB’s chief executive Lionel Yeo said: “With more consumers becoming discerning and going online for their travel needs, travel agents must rethink their businesses in order to value-add and remain relevant, competitive and productive in a dynamic travel landscape.”

A new committee will be set up within NATAS to help agents redesign their business and jobs to stay competitive while remaining sustainable. Together with STB, NATAS is also developing a step-by-step playbook that advises travel agents on how they can adopt new business models.

As for manpower constraints, this new roadmap will also feature a “suite of resources” that travel agents can utilise such as training and mentorship programmes and seminars.

Devinder Ohri, president of NATAS, told TTG Asia e-Daily: “We are signalling to the industry that if they don’t adopt technology and change their ways, it will be very difficult for them to survive. In this day, if you are not in a digital environment with a digital solution, you are not even on the playing field.”

Pointing out how technology promises both “wondrous possibilities and profound dislocations”, Ohri said STB and NATAS will organise regular technology showcases for agents, and provide them with an accompanying guidebook on the latest and most relevant solutions.

Acknowledging the widening disparity in terms of technological capabilities between the smaller and bigger travel agents, Ohri said this new platform will enable smaller agents to subscribe to new services “without considerable investments”, thus helping to “level the playing field”.

Travel agents are encouraged to tap on financial funding like STB’s Business Improvement Fund, which can subsidise up to 70 per cent of costs.

According to Samson Tan, CEO of GTMC Travel, who is in the midst of expanding his company’s portfolio to include a B2C component, he said: “Moving forward in the current age is a challenge. You won’t be in the business if you’re not doing something new or adopting new technology.”

The new roadmap also aims to address issues of manpower, and will feature a suite of resources that travel agents can utilise such as training and mentorship programmes and seminars.

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