Singapore trade sees silver lining in agency closures

Enforcing standards a way to keep consumer confidence up, agents say

Despite the slew of agency closures in Singapore – with Citi Travels & Tours being the latest to shutter its door earlier this month – the trade is hopeful that the resultant smaller pool of firms could lead to higher-quality players and stoke consumer confidence.

Yew Hoong Wong, director of EU Holidays, initially expressed concern that the closure will affect “overall consumer confidence in travel agencies”.

Enforcing standards a way to keep consumer confidence up, agents say

However, he observed that the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has been “more stringent with agents” since the abrupt closure of Five Stars Tours in 2014, and this in turn “instils greater consumer confidence in (the) industry”.

He said: “(STB has) most recently reviewed the Travel Agents Act and Regulations with new measures that began this month. Overall, it is good that they are monitoring and tightening the measures as it helps eliminate errant agents.”

This clampdown also poses “less competition” to surviving agencies, which is vital as online travel players are making it “quite hard to do business” for traditional agents, said Kei Satoh, sales & marketing senior manager, JTB Central Sales Operations (Asia Pacific).

A spokesperson from the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore said: “The suspension of Citi Travels is unlikely to impact the general environment of Singapore’s travel trade. STB’s active enforcement of its requirements and regulations (is) maintaining and building up the professionalism of the industry as a whole.”

Citi Travels & Tours’ suspension came as a result of the agency failing to submit its audited statement of accounts in a timely fashion.

To ensure it can sidestep being at risk, EU Holidays “engage(s) a third party financial compliance officer to regularly check (its) financial health”, shared Wong.

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