New owner transforming Dynasty Travel into travel tech company, planning luxe experiences

Travel Curators invited shamisen musician Niya for a performance for VIPs on Rishiri island in Hokkaido. PHOTO: TRAVEL CURATORS

SINGAPORE - Dynasty Travel, a brand-name agency established in 1978, is transforming into a travel technology company for the post-pandemic landscape.

It was acquired late last year in an eight-figure deal by Travel Curators, a Singapore-headquartered travel technology company that began as a mobile app targeted at affluent travellers seeking bespoke travel services in Japan.

The global pandemic is an opportune moment to digitalise Dynasty Travel, after its 100 per cent acquisition from JTB Asia Pacific, a subsidiary of Japan's largest travel company JTB Corporation, said Mr Teo Tianyi, founder of Travel Curators.

"With leisure and business travel severely disrupted by the ongoing pandemic, we see a unique opportunity to lead the digitalisation of the travel agency industry, and provide greater value-added services for global clients seeking safe and hassle-free ways to explore and learn more about our planet," said the Singaporean private equity investor, who was based in Tokyo for a decade.

The niche experiences in Japan crafted by Travel Curators include hunting ezo-bafun sea urchins with local fishermen on Rishiri Island in Hokkaido, while learning about how climate change is affecting the population of these ocean delicacies.

Travellers can also harvest organic mazuma wasabi with an artisanal grower who picks off pests by hand daily.

Travel Curators, a start-up founded in 2016, works closely with local communities in Japan and other countries to design one-of-a-kind experiences that also create a positive impact on the people, economy and environment of each place.

It is helping to preserve culture by, for instance, producing short films on best-in-class Japanese artisans, many of whom are retiring without successors. These include a Noh mask carver in Kyoto and an incense maker in Osaka.

Though it has stayed low profile, its refreshing approach to bespoke travel and efforts to give back have been highlighted by international media, including National Geographic and Esquire.

Bloomberg reported in 2018 that it has "an impressive Rolodex with the country's elite, facilitating everything from brown bear safaris in Hokkaido to private dinners with the cast of a live-action manga movie".

Fishermen catching ezo-bafun sea urchins in a sustainable style on Rishiri island in Hokkaido. PHOTO: TRAVEL CURATORS

In the same spirit, Dynasty Travel, one of the largest travel agencies in Singapore, will design bespoke adventures aligned with the environmental and social responsibility practices of its new owner - beginning with chartered luxury cruises to exotic places such as Antarctica and the Galapagos this year, Mr Teo said.

Journeys to Indonesian rainforests to learn more about wildlife protection and climate change are also being planned.

In line with the new ethos, the premises of Dynasty Travel in New Bridge Road will be redesigned for clients to enjoy a concierge-style customer experience that differs from the previous counter-style format.

The office floors will also be revamped to reflect the company's new technology-driven business approach, with an array of spaces such as quiet spots for focused work and relaxing common areas for informal discussions.

Meanwhile, the company is also recruiting new talent to strengthen its management team.

The rebranded Dynasty Travel is expected to amplify its presence in Asia under the ownership of Travel Curators, which also supplies its proprietary Tora-Q trip planning and management technology to leading travel agencies around the world.

In a strategic partnership, Travel Curators is also providing its Tora-Q system to JTB Asia Pacific to transform its business model and create new digital touchpoints for clients.

JTB Asia Pacific will also leverage Travel Curators' technology and trip curation expertise to design unique travel experiences around the world for a global clientele.

More transformation lies ahead. Mr Teo said: "As worldwide travel demand rebounds in the coming years, our acquisition of Dynasty Travel will put us in a prime position to rapidly grow our business and user base."

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