BEYOND THE GARDEN CITY
Hong Thai Travel Service is one such travel agency which is changing its offerings to keep up with the emerging travel trends of the Chinese market.
Ms Jasmine Li, the firm’s director of business development, said the agency expects the first wave of Chinese tourists to be seasoned travellers with an appetite for different experiences.
“Singapore has always been one of the top destinations for China tourists to visit, and a lot of them are returning customers,” Ms Li said in Mandarin.
“It means that they don’t want to go to places they have visited before. New experiences are more attractive to them.”
The itineraries offered in its new packages were first designed earlier in the pandemic, when the agency had to pivot towards a Singaporean crowd that could not travel overseas.
Now, the firm is tweaking these tours for Chinese travellers, showing them a different side of the country beyond its “Garden City” tag.
“We also have our back-end gardens, we also have other islands,” she said.
“We need to ensure that there are different activities and experiences so that they will want to stay longer in Singapore, and will also spend more money during their time here.”
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
The agency is also shifting its marketing tactics due to current trends.
Before the pandemic, it depended heavily on partner tour agencies in China to attract customers from the country.
“After the pandemic, we want to try social media to bring us to the market directly,” she said.
This is due to the high usage of social media in China, where millions are on social platforms like Douyin and Little Red Book for entertainment, information, and even shopping, explained Ms Li.
Ms Li said her company plans to engage influencers and live-streaming services to advertise its tours directly to prospective travellers.
“A lot of things can be promoted via social media and it is the trend now,” she said.
“At the same time it targets the kind of age group we want … like 35 and below, and statistics show it is part of their lifestyle to travel. So this shows we need to have a presence on social media.”
“This will not just increase our direct sales, but it can also help with Singapore’s branding as a tourism destination.”
Before the pandemic began, Chinese visitors made up about 40 per cent of the agency’s business. It expects to see big waves of tourists in March, after the Chinese New Year period.
Ms Li said the firm expects to regain 30 per cent of its pre-pandemic Chinese business within the next three months, and about 50 per cent within half a year.
MANPOWER SHORTAGE AFFECTS STANDARDS
More than 190 new licences were issued to travel agents over the last three years, according to the Singapore Tourism Board. Of these, 94 were given out last year – slightly below pre-pandemic levels.