Covid-19: The first 100 days in S'pore

Coronavirus: Travel firm continues to engage customers, with eye on recovery

Tourists at Merlion Park in January. Travel curbs in various countries, including Singapore, have halted inbound and outbound travel, but Dynasty Travel believes the situation could improve as early as June.
Tourists at Merlion Park in January. Travel curbs in various countries, including Singapore, have halted inbound and outbound travel, but Dynasty Travel believes the situation could improve as early as June.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

The travel industry may have come to a standstill due to the coronavirus, but companies and travel agents are continuing to engage customers online and taking up training courses in preparation for recovery.

Times are tough now with business on hold, but Dynasty Travel's director of public relations and communications Alicia Seah believes the situation could start to improve, possibly as early as next month.

Government support measures such as wage offsets and tax rebates have helped the company retain all of its 110 staff, and many have also been encouraged to use the circuit breaker period to take up online training courses.

Ms Seah said: "It has not been easy with business basically dropping to zero, but there has been a sense of community among staff and we are all working together to get through this."

The decline started earlier this year in January when customers started dropping trips to China, which was worst hit by the virus at the time.

Dynasty Travel saw business drop initially by about 20 per cent, with customers still travelling to Europe, South-east Asia and the United States.

But by late March, as travel restrictions in various countries, including Singapore, put a halt to inbound and outbound travel, Ms Seah said bookings and inquiries ceased.

All tours were either cancelled or postponed until August. Staff were asked to clear their annual leave as a cost-cutting measure.

Though the situation remains dire, Ms Seah said that Government support measures have been helpful.

 
 
 
 

Last month, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) made it easier for travel agents to free up cash flow by reducing the minimum financial requirement to keep their licence by 90 per cent until the end of the year.

The Government has also provided 75 per cent wage support on the first $4,600 for those in the tourism and aviation sectors.

Dynasty Travel has also benefited from the property and corporate income tax rebates as well as the waiver on foreign worker levy from the Government.

Though travel has ceased, the company is trying to make the best use of the downtime by engaging customers and encouraging staff to take up training courses.

Ms Seah said: "We've regularly been putting up content on our Facebook page to keep in touch with our customers. So that when the recovery period comes, we are at the top of their minds."

Various fun posts that the travel company has uploaded include fitness videos featuring its travel agents working out from home, contests where participants can win travel vouchers, and takeaway recommendations for those who miss international cuisine.

To help businesses upgrade during the downtime, STB has also partnered Facebook, Google and LinkedIn to develop Web-based training for the industry. Ms Seah said online courses are also available through Aventis Learning Group and NTUC LearningHub.

About 30 to 40 per cent of staff at Dynasty Travel have taken up online training courses in areas such as digital marketing, salesmanship and coping with stress.

Ms Seah said: "We are grateful that there are resources out there for staff to upgrade themselves now and upscale in these turbulent times."

She added that it is important for the company to be ready for the turnaround.

"Hopefully things will start to stabilise soon and people might start making travel plans in June," she said.


Tourists at Merlion Park in January. Travel curbs in various countries, including Singapore, have halted inbound and outbound travel, but Dynasty Travel believes the situation could improve as early as June. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Ms Seah predicted that trips to countries such as New Zealand, China, South Korea and Australia would pick up first, since these locations have generally had fewer Covid-19 cases recently.

Things are already looking up in China, where travel experts predict recovery would be under way in the next few months.

Ms Seah said: "There has been a glimpse of recovery overseas, so hopefully Singapore will get there eventually too. There is hope at the end of the tunnel."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 03, 2020, with the headline 'Travel firm continues to engage customers, with eye on recovery'. Print Edition | Subscribe