Travel Agent NewsSteven Ler, president of NATAS, sheds light on Singaporean travellers' top destinations and the importance of technology for travel agents' success.

NATAS maps Singaporeans' travel trends

Japan is the number one destination for outbound travellers from Singapore.
Japan is the number one destination for outbound travellers from Singapore. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/tang90246
Steven Ler
Steven Ler

Steven Ler has been in the travel trade for over 20 years, serving as president of NATAS (National Association of Travel Agents Singapore) and the executive director of UOB Travel.

In the wake of a recovering travel industry, Singaporean travellers are eagerly embarking on their long-awaited journeys. Shedding light on the preferred destinations among these travelers and recognising the evolving landscape of travel experiences is Steven Ler, the President of NATAS (National Association of Travel Agents Singapore).

Singaporeans' top 5 destinations

  1. Japan
  2. Thailand
  3. Indonesia
  4. South Korea
  5. United States

According to NATAS, the top five destinations among Singaporean travellers are Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and the United States. While these destinations have seen an increase in search demand, the volume of Singaporean travellers heading to Japan is expected to double from September to December 2023. This indicates a strong desire among Singaporeans to continue explore Japan's unique offerings.

What’s hot and trendy

Travellers from Singapore are increasingly inclined towards advanced search and purchase behavior, with more individuals buying tickets well in advance, up to 180 days before their travel dates. However, the majority of travellers still tend to make their purchases at least one week prior to departure.

The distribution of travellers between packaged tours, FIT (Free Independent Travel) tours, and cruises varies depending on the destination. While FIT tours are more common in Southeast Asia, long-haul destinations like Europe, the US, Japan, and Korea see a higher preference for group tours. Younger individuals, as young as 20 years old, now contribute to 15% of the market, indicating a shift in the demographics of buyers.

Cruises on the rise

The post-Covid era has witnessed a strengthening trend towards cruises, with more people venturing into this type of travel. NATAS Fair 2023 showcased significant interest in cruises, with bookings extending as far as 2025 and many cruises for 2023 already sold out.

The age group of cruise travellers has become younger, creating opportunities for multigenerational families to spend quality time together. Access to cruise experiences has become easier, and travellers are willing to invest in more premium options as they have saved up during the pandemic. However, it's important to note that costs have increased by around 30-40%, and early planning is crucial to secure holiday bookings, especially during busy periods.

Exclusive experiences

Travellers now seek exclusive and hidden treasures in their travel experiences. In Japan, for example, there is a growing interest in secret access to unique locations that are not widely publicised.

These hidden gems require insider knowledge and connections to gain entry. Exclusive experiences like dining at the Louis Vuitton Osaka café can come at a premium, with costs averaging around US$2000 per person. Such experiences cater to travellers looking for personalised and extraordinary adventures.

Digital adoption scorecard

While technology in the travel industry holds immense potential, the costs and complexities associated with its adoption can be daunting for smaller agencies. Recognising these challenges, NATAS has partnered with Amadeus, a global technology provider, to offer a common platform that minimises investment risks and supports digital growth for all travel agents.

Beyond online booking systems, this platform focuses on data analytics and content building, identifying key trends like New Distribution Capability (NDC), self-booking tools, and the promising potential of ChatGPT for travel applications. By collecting and analysing valuable customer data, travel agents can make informed decisions and adapt strategies to meet evolving market demands.

This partnership provides a collaborative platform, connecting travel agencies globally and enabling seamless content sharing and business growth. With a subscription-based model, the platform offers affordability and accessibility to agencies of all sizes, allowing customisation and global distribution of content.

By leveraging the power of technology and data, travel agents can establish digital connections and engage with operators worldwide, eliminating traditional face-to-face limitations. This digital transformation positions travel agents to exceed customer expectations, discover new opportunities, and thrive in the evolving travel landscape.

Putting the A in travel agents

Exceptional customer service plays a vital role in the training of new travel agents. Travel agencies are relied upon to provide advice on visa requirements, safety considerations, and other essential information.

Technology, such as ChatGPT powered by AI, can assist in handling basic customer inquiries and providing information promptly. However, the human touch and expertise provided by travel agents are irreplaceable. ChatGPT acts as a tool to augment the knowledge and content offered by travel agents, enhancing the overall service quality and efficiency.

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