Travel agencies offer tourists personalised itineraries
Agencies prepared to cater to 'exacting' S'poreans who want customised tours
It'll be the holiday season soon.
While that may mean boom time for travel agencies, a survey last year showed that an increasing number of Singaporeans now want to plan and book their own trips. (See report, below.)
What does that bode for travel agencies here?
Agencies The New Paper spoke to said they plan to go the extra mile to make sure their customers can go on their dream holidays.
Miss Joyce Tan, a marketing communications executive at Chan Brothers Travel, said in an e-mail reply that there has been an increase in the number of well-travelled Singaporeans who have "exacting travel demands".
"We have been offering customised tours all this while and formalised it in 2009 by setting up a separate Private Tours division," she said.
She described it as a service which caters to those who do not want to travel with strangers in regular tour groups. Instead, they want to travel in their own private groups.
The service has been so well-received that the division has seen a 30 per cent year-on-year increase in sales.
It is not just travellers with finicky tastes that travel agencies are catering too.
Their customers now also include travellers with mobility issues and special needs.
Last year, Dynasty Travel organised a trip to Penang for a group of 30 hearing impaired children.
"We arranged it so that one or two teachers were assigned to each group of 10 children," said Ms Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, in an e-mail reply.
And when a group of elderly customers who were wheelchair users travelled to Kuala Lumpur and Malacca last year, the agency ensured their needs were met as well.
The agency arranged for a separate van to transport the wheelchairs to the various locations.
"We will try our best to cater to the needs of wheelchair-bound travellers, but our customers are also aware of their own limitations and will not travel too far," said Ms Seah.
SPECIAL DIETARY REQUIREMENTS
Tour agencies are also now more prepared to handle the needs of travellers with special dietary requirements, such as halal food.
Chan Brothers Travel launched Chan's World Holidays in 2011, a service that caters to Muslim travellers.
"Planning for Muslim tours requires attention to details such as meal planning and prayer times," said Miss Tan.
"We seek to make adjustments where we can, if not, we make sure we highlight this to our customers before or during the tour so they are adequately prepared."
Some of the other travel agencies that cater to travellers who require halal food are Dynasty Travel, C&E Holidays and WTS Travel & Tours.
For Mr Azhar Masril, who spent 12 days in New Zealand for his honeymoon in August last year, the convenience of having everything planned for him was why he chose Chan Brothers Travel.
"I didn't want the hassle of planning, so for my honeymoon, I preferred to let someone else plan my trip for me," said the 31-year-old senior relationship manager with technology company Practo.
He also appreciated the fact that the agency tried to cater halal food forhim and his wife, where possible.
"When there wasn't any halal food, we had seafood or vegetarian options," he said.
When asked if he would have his future trips planned for him, he said it would depend on the situation.
"If I have the luxury of time and if I want to explore on my own, I would definitely plan my own trip," he said.
"But if I want to relax, I would turn to a travel agency."
Only 1 in 4 S'poreans uses travel agency
A survey of 1,000 Singaporeans last year by travel search engine Kayak showed that only about 26 per cent turn to traditional travel agents when planning their holidays.
More than half (61 per cent) said they consult online travel agencies.
This seems to also be reflected in government and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) statistics.
From 2010 to 2015, the number of Singapore residents who made outbound flights increased by 31 per cent, according to Immigration & Checkpoints Authority statistics.
But over the same period, STB figures showed that the number of travel agents who have closed shop here has increased - from 92 in 2010 to 119 last year.
In an e-mail reply to The New Paper, Mr Clifford Neo, chairman of the outbound travel committee at the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas),acknowledged the challenges its 400 members face.
"It is important that bricks-and-mortar travel agents work towards adapting to the changing times," he said.
"Many travellers still prefer in-person bookings that come with a human touch and allow for customisation and last-minute changes."
He urged travel agents to transform their business processes to focus on personalised services so as to reach out to new customers.