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
- South Korea
- 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.
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
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
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
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