Singapore agencies fuel wanderlust with NTO tie-ups

Travel agencies continue to keep Singaporean travellers engaged during the downtime via creative collaborations with various NTOs.

It’s a snowy December afternoon in Santa Claus’ Finnish homeland Rovaniemi. The sales director of Santa’s Hotel, Eveliina Korhonen, enters a cosy wood-panelled room that is the reception of Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle, a glass-roofed igloo hotel nestled a stone’s throw away from Santa Claus Village, which lies right on the Arctic Circle.

Korhonen is bringing Singaporean travellers on a virtual tour of the hotel in Lapland, giving them a glimpse into the interiors of a glass igloo, ideal for spotting northern lights. The hotel houses 71 climate-controlled, glass-roofed igloos tucked in the snow, each kitted out with modern-day amenities. Korhonen demonstrates how guests can set the aurora alarm on their in-room tablets to alert them when the northern lights appear, so they do not miss out.

Chef Dave of Burnt Ends giving Singaporean viewers a taste of Western Australia, as part of Dynasty Travel’s Makan Makan Facebook Live series

The virtual tour is among Singapore travel agency Chan Brothers’ efforts to continue engaging with local travellers amid the pandemic. While trips to Finland to view the aurora borealis are off the cards for now, the agency has teamed up with Visit Finland to showcase key attractions in the destination to stay top of mind among their travellers.

The live broadcast, which can be viewed on Chan Brothers’ Facebook page, is part of its ongoing Travel Tales Come Alive series, where the agency partners with various NTOs and its overseas destination specialists to promote the destinations through live virtual tours, online cooking classes, and more.

Chan Brothers partnered with Visit Finland to inspire travel to Lapland via a Facebook Live session

Besides Visit Finland, Chan Brothers also works with NTOs like Tourism Western Australia, Tourism New Zealand, Hong Kong Tourism Board and Dubai Tourism to churn out virtual content via Facebook Live, complete with Q&A sessions with attractive prizes to be won, including a five-day Perth & Wild Seafood Experience for two worth S$4,000 (US$2,980).

The series also aims to highlight the Covid-safe measures in place at these destinations, including mask-wearing, social distancing and sanitisation of aircraft and tour buses.

“We have ramped up touchpoints and connections with our customers, followers and subscribers across a spectrum of digital platforms in an aim to spark positivity about travel through sharing safer, smarter and novel travel experiences,” shared Jeremiah Wong, senior marketing communications manager at Chan Brothers Travel.

He said that the overall responses to these engagement efforts have been “positive” and “encouraging”, with each Facebook Live session raking up to 8,000 views organically. “This goes to show that our organic audience base is actively engaging with our travel content and that wanderlust is truly alive,” he added.

Wong further shared that the agency is in talks with various other tourism boards and overseas partners on engaging local audiences creatively through its platforms.

“We are also working closely with our partners and suppliers in ensuring and heightening safety and health measures across all touchpoints of the holiday experience,” he said.

Other agencies are buzzing during this downtime too. With food being an integral part of travel, Dynasty Travel launched in February the Makan Makan video series, working with tourism boards to give viewers a taste of foreign cuisine at home.

The agency joined hands with Tourism Western Australia to showcase grill house Burnt Ends, Hong Kong Tourism Board to feature Kam’s Roast, and Japan National Tourism Organization to spotlight Okinawan diner Nirai-Kanai. Viewers stood a chance to win dining vouchers to the featured restaurant.

Citing the case of working with Tourism Western Australia, Alicia Seah, Dynasty Travel’s director, public relations & communications, shared: “Food plays a vital role in planning our tour itinerary – be it a visit to the wineries, cafes in the city centre or quaint restaurants along the coastal routes of Western Australia. So, we hope to bring a taste of Australia to our customers and viewers in the comfort of their homes.”

Travel Wander, on the other hand, is connecting with local travellers in a very active way. Last December, the company teamed up with Switzerland Tourism to host a virtual hiking event dubbed Ticino Swiss Virtual Challenge, where participants have to complete a walk, hike or run covering 24km within 20 days. Some 50 people took up the challenge, with successful participants receiving a customised digital badge as a keepsake.

The event was to encourage locals to continue to lead an active lifestyle, and to raise awareness about the agency’s Hiking in Ticino Switzerland trip which it plans to relaunch post-Covid, shared Mabel Cheang, lead executive, business development at Travel Wander.

Currently, the company is also working with the Tourism Authority of Thailand Singapore Office to create a Thai-themed walking and cycling programme catering to local residents. Additionally, in conjunction with the upcoming World Bicycle Day, Travel Wander plans to launch a special sports T-shirt. “This is something different from our usual travel-related projects so that we keep things fresh and interesting for our members,” explained Cheang.

The agency has also run a series of virtual trip presentations titled Weeknights with Wander Gals via Facebook Live, where Cheang alongside founder Sheryl Lim promotes various destinations, in collaboration with tourism boards like New Zealand Tourism, Jeju Tourism Organisation and Destination NSW, and its overseas partners from Iceland and Greenland.

Viewers have the opportunity to pose questions to a destination specialist from Switzerland Tourism during a Facebook Live session hosted by Travel Wander

“More often than not, many interesting information about the destination are shared – information that cannot be easily found online,” said Cheang. “It also gave the various destination leaders the opportunity to interact with travellers on an intimate level, albeit digitally. Our audience also appreciates the interaction as it gives them a better idea on how to plan future holidays.”

In preparation for the travel rebound, the agency has opened pre-registration for its tours at a deposit fee of only S$10 per person. “This allows us to study what trips are more popular so that when travel rebounds, we will be able to focus our energy and resources for trips that are in demand,” explained Cheang. “With this initiative, it has offered us invaluable insights on what local travellers desire, and allow us to communicate directly and effectively with them rather than casting a wide net.”

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