Singapore Tourism Board launches green lane of prequalified technology solutions for travel agents

Singapore Tourism Board launches green lane of prequalified technology solutions for travel agents

A year after jointly launching the Travel
Agent Roadmap
, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the National
Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) announced
follow-up initiatives to help travel agents meet the changing demands of
travellers and tackle manpower-related challenges.

The Travel Agent Roadmap launched in August 2016 aims to
enhance the capability and sustainability of the travel agent industry through
three key areas, namely business transformation, technology and manpower. Since
the launch of the Travel Agent Roadmap in August 2016, more than 40 projects
proposed and implemented by travel agents have received funding under STB's
Business Improvement Fund (BIF) and Experience Step-Up Fund (ESF).  These
projects are wide-ranging in their scope and intent, including new business
strategy, re-branding initiatives, adoption of technology solutions and
creation of new tour products.

The announcements were made at the STB-NATAS Travel Agent
Industry Forum 2017 today. A Business Transformation Through-Train Programme
and a "Green Lane" for quicker adoption of technological solutions
are among the new initiatives. Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry
& Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth Ms Sim Ann attended the event as
the Guest of Honour.  

Supporting travel agents in business transformation

 The Business Transformation Playbook launched
by STB today is intended to be a resource for travel agents who wish to adopt
new business models. The Playbook includes information on how travel agents may
change key areas of their businesses, such as their value proposition and how
they reach their customers. It also includes a self-assessment kit to help
travel agents take stock of their current business models, before considering
their next steps.

As a follow up to the Playbook, STB will be initiating the
Business Transformation Through-Train Programme to guide travel agents through
the three phases of the transformation journey: ideation, research and implementation.

The programme will help travel agents envision new business
models, identify gaps and opportunities, and implement business shifts to
remain competitive.  An open call to the industry for a pilot run of the
programme will be made in the first half of next year.

To support travel agents in moving into the online domain,
NATAS will be developing an offline-to-online (O2O) portal to be ready by the
second half of next year. 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 the ability to go online.  

Green Lane for expediting technology adoption 

To expedite travel agents' adoption of technology, STB will
develop a "green lane" where a set of solutions will be identified
and prequalified for funding approval, allowing interested travel agents to
adopt technology easily. Supported solutions may include basic systems that
support travel agents in making quotations and reservations, managing tour
operations and simplifying backend processes.

STB and NATAS will also organise regular technology
showcases and talks to increase awareness among travel agents of the solutions
relevant to their businesses.

At today's Travel Agent Industry forum, there was also a
technology showcase where 21 vendors featured the latest solutions for travel
agents. Among the solutions showcased were five technology solutions that were
crowdsourced through the
Innovation Challenge for Travel Agents
held in May this year.

The solutions which emerged successful from the Challenge
include the use of chatbots to improve the customer experience, and harnessing
data analytics to identify customer preferences. These solutions were given
grant support by STB to develop pilot solutions for eight travel agencies that
cover inbound, outbound and corporate travel, over the course of next

During 2018, NATAS will also be launching a Travel
Technology Challenge, which will build on the Tourism Innovation Challenge to
further proliferate new technology solutions in the industry.  

Boosting Manpower

STB and NATAS also launched the e-Onboarding Guide and
Internship Guide today. These are aimed at easing new hires into their jobs and
educating travel agents on improving their internship programmes, so as to help
them attract and retain talent.

STB and NATAS will continue to organise workshops and
networking events to understand on-ground challenges and educate travel agents
on HR practices.

Over the next few months, much effort will also be focused
on better profiling the industry's career and match job-seekers to employers.
NATAS has been appointed as a Sectoral Outreach Multiplier for the P-MAX programme
under Workforce Singapore (WSG)'s Adapt and Grow initiative to reach out to the
travel agent industry and encourage SMEs' adoption of P-MAX. P-MAX helps SMEs
recruit, train, manage and retain their newly-hired Professionals, Managers, Executives
and Technicians (PMETs) employees more effectively.

For the job-seekers, NATAS will be launching a talent
development platform by the second half of next year. The platform will allow
travel agents to source for talent and help job-seekers understand the skills
required, as well as the courses they may need to undertake, in order to move
forward in their travel agent career.

Senior Minister of State Ms Sim Ann said, "The
Government has been supporting our travel agents to grow and transform in an
increasingly competitive tourism landscape. The amendments to the Travel Agents
Act were passed in Parliament last week to foster greater innovation, reduce
regulatory burden and raise industry standards by strengthening safeguards
against travel agent malpractice. The initiatives launched today will
complement these legislative amendments and equip our travel agents with the
tools and resources to harness growth opportunities and become designers of
travel experiences."

Mr Steven Ler, NATAS, Acting President, said, "Travel
agents today are caught between a rock and a hard place. Our customers want
better value, more customised experiences, while our processes and skills have
yet to catch up. If we want to thrive into the future, a change must be made to
how we do things, how we approach our customers and what we offer to them.
Together with STB, NATAS has put forth resources for travel agents to take the
first step."