Boutique tour operators mushroom in Singapore amid experiential travel wave

The red-hot experiential travel trend is fuelling the rise of young tour operators in Singapore, as the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) has reported an influx of new members that include young and rising players.

Speaking at the Singapore Tourism Board’s Travel Agent Industry Forum last week, NATAS’ president Steven Ler said: “We are seeing a lot more millennial tour operators in Singapore becoming more active now, (offering) many types of local and curated tours. NATAS is engaging this group of new tour operators to understand what their needs are.”

Oriental Travel and Tours’ Jasmine Tan wants to provide travellers with off-the-beaten-track experiences

These needs include advice and support in regional marketing, social media outreach and partnerships with other travel companies, he elaborated. Some 50 new agencies joined NATAS in 2019, bringing the association’s current membership count to more than 400.

“These are newer agencies with newer ideas, and we have been engaging them to find out how we can support them. We also work with our inbound community to help drive more traffic into Singapore, which can definitely benefit this group of tour operators,” said Ler.

One such operator that NATAS is working with is Oriental Travel & Tours, which brings visitors to uncommonly toured areas in Singapore, such as Ang Mo Kio’s Bird Singing Club and Tanglin. Soon to come is the Creepy Tales of Singapore night tour that will bring guests to explore mysterious World War II locations with a guide wielding ghost-detecting gear.

“We believe we can make a difference in the industry, as travellers are showing a lot of behavioural changes. Our customers are mainly from Europe and the US, and they are looking for something different to do beyond attractions like the Merlion and Sentosa, especially tourists who have visited Singapore more than three times. There are many pockets of the island that they can explore,” said Jasmine Tan, co-founder, Oriental Travel and Tours.

Another new operator, Kayak Fishing Fever, was started in August 2018 by founder Aaron Ang to take visitors and locals alike to Singapore’s prime fishing and kayaking spots. The operator has risen in popularity among Americans, Europeans and Australians, and Ang is now looking to boost its name among Asian travellers.

“We appeal to people who want to explore the real Singapore, especially travellers who like fishing and nature,” he told TTG Asia. “A lot of people don’t know that something like this even exists in Singapore, so I want to bring awareness to it.”

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