We refer to the report (680 tour agencies in Singapore closed in last 5 years amid industry gloom; ST Online, March 26).
We would like to clarify that the total number of travel agents has remained constant at about 1,200 in the past few years.
There is a healthy rate of new entrants injecting ideas and innovative products to meet the increasing demand of both outbound and inbound travel.
The rate of exits from the business has also remained fairly constant.
The majority of agents who leave the industry choose to let their licence expire at the end of the year, resulting in a spike in numbers in the first quarter of each year.
Hence, the article's extrapolation of this number to deduce the number of travel agent closures for the full year is not accurate.
While the travel agent industry is dynamic, it does face challenges, including changes in consumer travel habits and the increased presence of online platforms.
To enable travel agents to continue to grow and thrive, we made changes to the Travel Agents legislationlast November.
For example, to encourage more businesses to create diversified and innovative products, certain entities such as walking tour operators have been exempted from requiring a travel agent licence.
A niche licence tier has also been introduced for travel agents arranging or selling tours in Singapore with passenger-carrying conveyance but without accommodation.
We also worked with the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore to launch the Travel Agent Roadmap in August 2016.
To date, we have seen more travel agents taking part in the various initiatives implemented under the roadmap to transform their businesses, adopt technology or relook manpower practices.
Since the launch of the roadmap, there has been a jump in the number of Business Improvement Fund projects supported to 57 from only four in 2016.
The Singapore Tourism Board will continue to work closely with our travel agents to build industry capabilities and ensure a vibrant tourism landscape.
Ong Ling Lee (Ms)
Director, Travel Agents and Tourist Guides
Singapore Tourism Board