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STB and NATAS boost travel agents capabilities

Travel Talent Transformation & Management Programme and NATAS Resource Centre among new initiatives to support travel agents in becoming designers of travel experiences

Singapore – The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) today announced new and updated initiatives to help travel agents stay relevant and build their capabilities.

Among the slew of initiatives are a Travel Talent Transformation & Management Programme to improve HR practices and attract and retain workers, a one-stop NATAS Resource Centre that supports business transformation projects, and an updated Business Transformation Through-Train Programme to guide the implementation of new business models.

These initiatives, announced at the STB-NATAS Travel Agent Industry Forum 2018, are part of the Travel Agent Roadmap launched by STB and NATAS two years ago. 

Ms Ong Ling Lee, Director, Travel Agents and Tourist Guides, STB, said, “STB launched the Travel Agent Roadmap two years ago to help travel agents transform their businesses and become more agile and resilient in responding to challenges. As we enter the third year of the Roadmap, we are refining the different types of support for travel agents to equip them with the relevant tools and resources that they might need to tap growth opportunities. We are confident that the initiatives launched today, from the self-help resources to the Through-Train Programmes, will help our travel agents become true designers of travel experiences”.

Mr Steven Ler, President, NATAS said, “The Association values this close partnership with STB as we look forward to continue this concerted effort in driving business transformation, innovation and sustainable growth within the Travel Agent Industry. We believe that with careful planning and strong execution, we can navigate challenges together in the next lap of our journey.”

Since the launch of the Roadmap in August 2016, more than 90 projects, ranging from technology adoption to business remodelling, have received support from STB’s Business Improvement Fund. These projects have helped travel agents improve productivity and save over 800 manhours – which translates to 100 workers – per day. The new slew of initiatives announced today are done in collaboration with NATAS and the travel agent industry stakeholders to continue helping travel agents innovate further to stay competitive.

Business Transformation: Transforming Business through the Through-Train Programme v2.0  

STB will be launching version 2.0 of the Business Transformation Through-Train programme in the second quarter of 2019, following a successful pilot run in 2018. Aimed at progressive travel agents ready to relook their business models, the programme guides travel agents through three phases of the transformation journey: ideation, research and implementation.

The programme helps travel agents envision new business models, identify gaps and opportunities, and implement business shifts to remain competitive. Seven travel agents completed the first run of the programme. One participant, Pegasus Travel Management, plans to create a travel social space with its mobile application String, where travellers can share travel content and be inspired to create their own itineraries.

Version 2.0 of the programme takes into consideration feedback and learnings from the first run and will aim to better support participants through the programme by providing additional consultation sessions and education. An open call to the industry for the second run of the programme will be made in the first quarter of 2019.

Technology: Boosting Travel Agents’ Tech-Savviness through Tech Talks, Solution Call-Out and Online Travel Portal 

To educate travel agents on the technology solutions available and guide their technology adoption, STB will organise regular talks that cover emerging technologies, conduct a solution call-out to identify relevant technology vendors for travel agents, and develop a do-it-yourself guide to assist travel agents in selecting suitable technology solutions that will meet their business needs.

In the coming year, NATAS will also be launching a Travel Technology Challenge, that builds on the Tourism Innovation Challenge to further proliferate new technology solutions among the industry.

NATAS is already looking at the potential of developing an offline-to-online (O2O) portal to support travel agents in moving into the online domain. The portal will feature themed travel fairs throughout the year, and will serve as a plug-and-play solution for travel agents who currently do not have an online presence. NATAS is in talks with potential leads and is looking at an O2O portal that is poised to host a wider network of players within the travel & tourism eco-system to bring forth a more holistic user experience.   

Manpower: Travel Talent Transformation & Management Programme to Bridge Manpower Gaps

STB and NATAS also announced the Travel Talent Transformation & Management Programme today, which is aimed at identifying and bridging gaps in HR practices. Travel agents will be able to diagnose their HR gaps through one-on-one sessions with consultants, learn how to resolve these gaps through masterclasses and site visits to firms with successful HR practices, and be guided through the solution implementation.

For job-seekers, NATAS will work with Workforce Singapore(WSG) to list available jobs in the travel agent industry on the MyCareersFuture job portal. This will allow job seekers to understand the career options within our sector and therefore attract more talents into our current pool of travel professionals.  

STB and NATAS will embark on a series of marketing activities next year, focusing on changing the perception of the industry as a viable career option for job-seekers and showcasing the interesting, unknown aspects of the travel agent business. More details will be announced at a later date.

NATAS Resource Centre and Tour Operators Alliance 

NATAS is also looking at developing an online Resource Centre in 2019, a one-stop shop where travel agents can access toolkits and resources and get timely advice on how to embark on business transformation projects.

In a move that will enhance the vibrancy of the local tour landscape, a group of tour operators have decided to come together to form a Tour Operators Alliance, STB announced today. The founding team includes Monster Day Tours, Let’s Go Tour Singapore, Singapore Sidecars, Ruby Dot Trails, and Tribe. The Alliance will enable tour operators to come together to further their collective interests, shape their capabilities as a group, share resources, and work with inbound travel agents for partnerships. Some of the in-depth immersive tours led by the tour operators were featured in a Passion Tour Zone showcase at today’s Forum.

With disruption becoming the norm in many industries and sectors, STB and NATAS will continue to work closely with travel agent industry stakeholders in the years ahead to identify and implement initiatives that support business transformation, technological improvements and manpower savings.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.