Agencies eye new ways to boost travel

Amid a gloomy economic outlook, some travel agencies are planning to shake things up in the new year to smooth the bumpy ride ahead.

Some are introducing more affordable packages for budget-conscious travellers, while others are focusing more on customised and private tours to draw holidaymakers. Some are even teaming up with other agencies to fill tour groups.

Chan Brothers Travel introduced "semi tours" earlier this year, which is a combination of a package tour and free-and-easy holiday.

While these are now limited to destinations such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, Chan Brothers is planning to double its semi tour offerings in 2017, which are up to 30 per cent cheaper than its package tours.

"We forecast that the lower tour fares would appeal to prudent consumers in 2017, a foreseeable challenging economic year," said the agency's marketing communications executive Joyce Tan.

SA Tours managing director Kay Swee Pin said the company is considering collaborating with other travel agencies to merge some tours that it may not be able to fill on its own.

"The problem with tours is that you need a certain group size. By merging, we can have more confirmed departures," she said.

To cater to the higher demand for free-and-easy tours, Dynasty Travel will be offering more customised tours next year, while WTS Travel and Tours will be focusing on smaller groups and private tours.


With weak consumer sentiment and an early Chinese New Year closely following the year-end holidays, some agencies have seen a dip in bookings of up to 15 per cent for the festive period.

While Dynasty Travel has seen greater demand for regional and Asian destinations for the Chinese New Year long weekend late next month, overall sales have fallen by about 5 per cent compared with this year, said director of marketing communications Alicia Seah.

Regional holidays are expected to gain popularity next year as budget-conscious travellers cut down on long-haul travel, while a slower market may result in bigger bargains, said industry players and observers.

Travel search engine Kayak has seen double digit year-on-year growth in searches for regional destinations for the first quarter of next year, with Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi registering the biggest jumps in interest.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's senior tourism lecturer Michael Chiam said Singaporeans are likely to be more cautious with their travel spending, going to nearby destinations and looking for more budget accommodation.

"If the Singapore dollar remains strong, some will take advantage of the exchange rate and go a bit farther but, on the whole, travel will be a bit slower," he said.

This may result in greater deals for travel packages, said Dr Chiam. Dynasty Travel's Ms Seah said: "If the market becomes soft, airlines will be offering great discounts to make travellers take to the skies again.

"Singaporeans will still travel, just that they may go from making two long-haul trips to one short-haul and one long-haul."

This article was first published on December 19, 2016.
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