STB and Natas launch plan to help travel agencies stay relevant in Internet age

 Visitors at the Natas travel fair at the Singapore Expo on March 5, 2016.
Visitors at the Natas travel fair at the Singapore Expo on March 5, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - To help travel agencies here tackle online competitors and manpower constraints, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is pushing for firms to adopt new business models and redefine what it means to be a travel agent.

The STB and the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) on Tuesday (Aug 2) launched a plan to help agents move beyond ticketing and order-taking to become "designers of travel experiences".

The Travel Agent Roadmap focuses on three areas: business transformation, technology and manpower.

"Travel agents... contribute to the vibrancy of our economy and provide good jobs for Singaporeans," said STB chief executive Lionel Yeo at an inaugural industry forum.

"However, with more consumers becoming discerning and going online for their travel needs, travel agents must rethink their businesses in order to value-add and remain relevant, competitive and productive in a dynamic travel landscape," he added.

A new committee will be set up within Natas to help agents redesign their business and jobs to stay competitive while remaining sustainable.

This business transformation committee, supported by the STB, will develop a step-by-step playbook on how travel agents can adopt suitable new business models.

The STB and Natas will organise regular technology showcases for agents and provide them with an accompanying guidebook on the latest and most relevant technology solutions for agents. Agents are also encouraged to tap on STB funds such as the Business Improvement Fund and Experience Step-Up Fund.

To tackle manpower challenges, agents will be able to tap on a suite of resources such as mentorship programmes, skills training and seminars.

The STB and Natas will also engage schools and students to increase awareness of the career options in the industry.

Natas president Devinder Ohri said: "We believe the Travel Agent Roadmap can create unprecedented opportunities to bring about business transformation for the travel agent industry, thereby ensuring viability and sustainable growth in the years to come."

The forum, held at the Raffles Convention Centre, featured a technology showcase by more than 15 vendors. Information booths by various government agencies were also set up for travel agents to find out more about grants and customised assistance for small and medium enterprises.