Travel Agent NewsThe pandemic was a tough time, but it also opened up new business lanes for EU Holidays — from bike tours to yacht charters to launching a snowboarding school.

Agent of innovation: Ong Hanjie, Director, EU Holidays

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EU Holidays had to diversify its business streams during the pandemic, but it also fostered an even strong spirit of innovation across the company, says Ong Hanjie.
EU Holidays had to diversify its business streams during the pandemic, but it also fostered an even strong spirit of innovation across the company, says Ong Hanjie.

Like many Singaporeans, Ong Hanjie had a chance to uncover interesting facets of the country when the borders were closed. As director of EU Holidays, he also saw the opportunity to create novel ways of exploring the small city-state to satiate the wanderlust spirit of many travel-starved Singaporeans.

Aided by the creativity of his team at EU Holidays, the first yacht tours were rolled out in 2020 for domestic travellers to charter sunset cruises to the various islands surrounding Singapore. “At the time, there was only the domestic tourism market, so tour products definitely had to be a bit more creative,” Ong recalls.

We want to get our travellers to try out experiential stuff, something they normally won’t be able to do in Singapore to make their holidays more memorable.– Ong Hanjie, Director, EU Holidays

But there were other fresh endeavours at EU Holidays, as the agency sought to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic by diversifying its business streams. Not only did the company set up a catering outfit to sell fresh fruits online, EU Holidays also started selling foldable bikes at its Suntec City store.

“Now we don't require that many counter staff, as some of them now work from home serving customers through the phone, we have additional spaces at our main showroom at Suntec to sell a range of various bicycle models,” says Ong.

During the pandemic, EU Holidays started showcasing and selling foldable bikes at its Suntec City store, a reflection of the company's business diversification.
During the pandemic, EU Holidays started showcasing and selling foldable bikes at its Suntec City store, a reflection of the company's business diversification.

These bikes are also attention magnates, beckoning passer-bys who walk into the shop to look at these gadgets and turning them into potential clients for the agency. “These bikes are not our brick and mortar, but we think they are a good supplement to our income.”

In 2021, the company also underwent a restructure to merge both leisure travel arms, EU Holidays and EU Asia, under the former. “During these times, we think this is a good opportunity where the company unites as a single brand identity and reduce confusion between the customers and our trade partners,” Ong shares.

Meanwhile, EU Holidays has launched an inbound department to sell inbound products that include bicycle tours, and together with the bicycle partnership for the storefront, reflects the agency’s repositioning to offer tours that cater to travellers’ growing desire for experiential holidays post pandemic.

EU Holidays’ VTL tours, launched in October 2021 when Singapore introduced the vaccinated travel lanes with various countries, have taken a more experiential bent, according to Ong. “We want to get our travellers to try out experiential stuff, something they normally won’t be able to do in Singapore to make their holidays more memorable,” he stresses.

EU Holidays is rolling out more experiential programmes that include activities such as sledding and skiing in temperate countries.
EU Holidays is rolling out more experiential programmes that include activities such as sledding and skiing in temperate countries.

Sledding, for example, is one unique activity that appeal to all ages, from eight to 80 years old. “All you have to do is to sit on the sled and enjoy the fun. Imagine sledding a mountain in Switzerland and the entire white expanse of the mountain view opens up in front of you. These are experiences that you don’t get in Singapore, and you will enjoy it such much that you will remember it forever,” enthuses Ong.

He also notes that a growing segment of Singaporeans are increasingly taking up sledding, skiing and snow activities but often lack a travel planner to conveniently arrange such trips for them and their friends. With this in mind, EU Holidays established the Singapore Ski and Snowboarding Academy earlier this year with other external partners that include skiing coaches and snowboarding experts.

“This new avenue is where a travel agency can bring a lot of synergy to. We can bring students for skiing and snowboarding activities worldwide – we can ski in Switzerland, we can snowboard in Japan. We have already sent our first few tour groups to Korea and Switzerland.”

More details about the academy will be revealed in due time, says Ong, but meanwhile travellers can expect EU Holidays’ tour offerings to offer opportunities for local immersion and engagement. “We are going to do a lot more adventurous stuff like whitewater rafting, skydiving. These are the things that we are including in our itinerary.”

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