As tour agencies big and small bet on a sharp recovery in leisure travel bookings to drive profitability, one Singapore-based operator is shifting gear to cater to travellers who seek to give back or practise their faith while on holidays.
From life liberation daytrips which would see marine life put back into the sea to trips to Batam, Indonesia to offer the less-privileged villagers some daily necessities, Ik Chin Travel prides itself as being a progressive enterprise that’s adaptable to the evolving needs of their customers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to stop and “see” compassion for what it is – a driver of change in an otherwise (mostly) apathetic world. According to Kok Jin Dao, general manager at Ik Chin Travel, there has been a mindset shift among customers before 2020 and now.
“There are so many stories of kindness during the pandemic; at times of need, people will lend a helping hand to support each other,” Kok said. “When we first started, we faced difficulties gathering groups due to the fear of the pandemic but as time passed, we saw more people signing up for our tours.”
Kok credits the travel agency’s change in business focus to the founders’ faith in Buddhism. Their arranged trips include annual visits to make offerings to the Buddhist Sangha community in Malacca. Ik Chin also organises Buddhism-related visits to India.
“One main difference about our travel agency is that there is some Buddhism influence in many of the tours we arrange,” he said. “For example, our life liberation tours will include a Buddhism ritual before the lives (marine or wild life) are released back to their communities.”
By arranging such tours to enable others to accumulate merits, Ik Chin’s founders and employees also hope to be able to contribute to the good deeds themselves.
“We realised that there are many people who want to do good but have not been able to find the opportunity to do so – by presenting our services to them, they’re willing to sign up for such trips to do good deeds with other like-minded tour members,” he explained.
While these trips are unlikely to alter the lives of the less privileged overnight, Kok believes in the virtuous cycle of care and compassion. He shared: “As interpersonal relations become more transactional, we hope that through these trips, people are able to open their hearts more to care for and love others.”
Indeed, vacations need not be grand to be significant, and travellers can also find it rewarding to treat themselves to a trip of helping others. With more destinations and themes coming up at Ik Chin, travellers seeking to get a boost of endorphins from helping others will have more choices to select from.
Ik Chin has plans to organise tours to support the less fortunate students in Malacca and host visits to a village in Chiang Mai where customers will spend time interacting with and providing support for local villagers and students – from cooking them a meal to offering daily or school necessities.
“During a holiday, we are able to put away our troubles and enjoy, unwind and recharge. It is the perfect time to do good – not only can we do it more wholeheartedly, we can also share genuine joy and love with others,” Kok said.