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Tech Boost for Travel Agent Industry

The Travel Agent Roadmap launched in August 2016 is going through a process of refinement. Back then, the Roadmap sought to enhance the capability and sustainability of the travel agent industry. Business transformation, technology and manpower were identified as key areas for transformation.

Two years on, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) have recently announced new and updated initiatives to help travel agents stay relevant and build their capabilities.

Mr Ong Ling Lee, Director, Travel Agents and Tourist Guides, STB, said, “STB launched the Travel Agent Roadmap two years ago to help travel agents transform their businesses and become more agile and resilient in responding to challenges. As we enter the third year of the Roadmap, we are refining the different types of support for travel agents to equip them with the relevant tools and resources that they might need to tap growth opportunities.”

Some of the newly installed initiatives include a Travel Talent Transformation & Management Program, the NATAS Resource Centre, and an updated Business Transformation Through-Train Program. These initiatives were undertaken by NATAS and stakeholders from the travel agent industry to help travel agents innovate further to stay competitive.

The Travel Transformation & Management Program serves to improve human resource practices and attract and retain workers. One-on-one sessions with consultants will help resolve gaps in human resource practices through masterclasses and site visits to firms with successful human resource practices. They will also be guided through the solution implementation.

An online NATAS Resource Centre could be materialised in 2019. The centre is a one-stop shop where travel agents can access toolkits and resources. They will also receive timely advice on how to embark on business transformation projects.

Version 2.0 of the Business Transformation Through-Train Program will be launched in the second quarter of 2019. A successful pilot run was concluded in 2018. The program targets travel agents who are ready to relook their business models. It guides travel agents through three phases for transformation: ideation, research and implementation.

Travel agents are assisted to envision new business models, identify gaps and opportunities, and implement business shifts to remain competitive. Thus far, seven travel agents have completed the first run of the program. An open call to the industry will be made for the second run of the program in the first quarter of 2019.

Furthermore, plans are underway to boost a travel agent’s tech-savviness through tech talks, solution call-out and online travel portal. The intention is to educate travel agents on the technology solutions available. Relevant technology vendors will be identified to assist the agents.

NATAS will also be launching a Travel Technology Challenge in 2019. The Challenge builds on the Tourism Innovation Challenge to further proliferate new technology solutions among the industry.

Presently, NATAS seeks to develop an offline-to-online portal to support travel agents in moving into the online domain. Themed travel fairs feature on the portal. It also serves as a plug-and-play solution for travel agents who currently do not have an online presence. Potential leads have been identified by NATAS. More plans are scheduled to build an offline-to-online portal which can host a wider network of players within the travel and tourism ecosystem, improving user experience.

Since the Roadmap’s launch, more than 90 projects have been implemented. From technology adoption to business remodelling, STB’s Business Improvement Fund has assisted them. In turn, travel agents have improved productivity and over 800 manhours have been saved.

Mr Steven Ler, President, NATAS said, “We believe that with careful planning and strong execution, we can navigate challenges together in the next lap of our journey.”

In the years to come, STB and NATAS will continue to work hand in hand, bringing the travel industry to the future.

Mr Ong said, “We are confident that the initiatives launched today, from the self-help resources to the Through-Train Programmes, will help our travel agents become true designers of travel experiences.”

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