Travel Agent NewsThree ways travel agents build and recover their business after more than two years of disruption.

How travel agents weather the post-pandemic elements

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Agents are opting for freelancers, adopting digitisation and building marketing savviness.
Agents are opting for freelancers, adopting digitisation and building marketing savviness. Photo Credit: Kembara Sufi Travel

Travel agencies were among the hardest hit tourism businesses during the pandemic. Even as travel roars back now, many travel firms must keep evolving and developing more strategies to navigate the rough waters of rising costs, staff shortages and other impacts triggered by the pandemic.

Post pandemic, a resilience agenda requires travel agents to quickly adapt and be decisive. Here are three ways travel firms in Malaysia are staying resilient:

Paying per assignment for non-critical roles

“The staff shortage has definitely affected many travel agents,” says Khaw Aik Heng, executive director of Top Leisure. From drivers to guides, Khaw says many staff left the business during Covid-19 to look for jobs elsewhere.

Despite the lack of staff, Khaw says his company is not actively recruiting and has turned to hiring part-timers for non-critical roles who are paid per assignment. With new hires requiring training, working with freelancers is also one of the ways his company manages their cashflows and rising costs.

Going digital is a must

Many travel agents also say that the pandemic had pushed them to adapt and get smarter at doing business, specifically by going digital.

When Safar Trips first shifted their communications and sales channels to WhatsApp, it was to help them overcome staff shortages. Soon they realised that not only did their digitally-savvy customers appreciate the change, but it helped them offer a more personalised service.

“WhatsApp Business API is a great enabler to reaching out to our customers quickly and effectively,” says co-founder Rizal Mohamad. “We’re able to reply to enquiries faster, including helping our customers with issues such as cancellations or flight delays.”

Savvy out-of-the-box marketing

In catering to the generation of DIY travellers – who plan and manage their travel online – travel firms have had to think out of the box when marketing packages.

Kembara Sufi Travel played upon the nostalgia of the Prophet’s stories by marketing its Egypt tour as “Jejak Rasul”, which translates to “In the Messenger’s Footsteps”. In a savvy move, it launched the package during Islamic Tourism Centre’s maiden Islamic Tourism Week in Malaysia, a two-week event that showcases local and global diverse Islamic Tourism and Muslim-Friendly touristic experiences.

Meanwhile, Safar Trip’s women-only scuba diving certification package leverages on recent statistics that showed women are fuelling an explosive growth in the travel industry. “It’s all about re-evaluating the products offered to understand and attract new customers,” says Rizal. “Upselling through experience or personalising a product really helps us to strategise and weather these uncertain times.”

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