Travel Agent NewsWonderGoLander founders Lim Hui-Juan and Javiny Lim are living out their love as travel planners. Now they want others to appreciate the hallmarks of a good, passionate agent.

Two women, one mission: Elevating the travel agent profession

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For WonderGoLander founders Lim Hui-Juan and Javiny Lim, being bespoke travel planners means being on call 24-7 even while skiing the slopes of Zermatt, Switzerland.
For WonderGoLander founders Lim Hui-Juan and Javiny Lim, being bespoke travel planners means being on call 24-7 even while skiing the slopes of Zermatt, Switzerland.
5 uniquely Singapore traveller quirks

Preferences exhibited by most Singaporean travellers, according to WonderGoLander

Not too much down time: “Singaporeans are not the kind that will spend two weeks in Bali to read a book.”
Historic hotels are not favoured – for fear of hauntings.
No hassles, please: Singaporeans want to minimise inconveniences, preferring to fit everyone into one car or avoid lugging luggage onto trains.
Prefer straight-to-the-point communication: “Don’t sell me a story, tell me what’s in it for me.”
Singaporeans are cold creatures: “They want to go to Scandinavia and freeze in the sub-zero climes.”

It takes both a strong head and heart to be a travel agent. Just look at Lim Hui-Juan and Javiny Lim, who as founders of WonderGoLander have spent 15 years in the travel planner role since establishing the bespoke travel company in 2007.

Over the years, the two former engineers turned entrepreneurs have mastered the travel advisor profession with a meld of technical expertise, creative bent and plenty of passion.

“This is a job driven by passion. It also requires a lot of skills – organisation, project management, sales – and you also need to know how to read weather charts, forex exchange, everything that’s happening in the world,” said Hui-Juan. “A travel agent is almost like an investment banker, but without the money,” she quipped.

“Everybody grows up wanting to be a doctor, lawyer or banker. Nobody ever tells you, ‘I want to grow up to be a travel agent’,” Hui-Juan added, noting that fewer people aspire to pursue service-oriented careers in Asia.

Being a travel agent also calls for a lot of perseverance and resilience during the pandemic. But the duo shared that the crisis has also given them the time to reflect and refine their craft as travel planners, which saw the rebranding of Quotient Travel into WonderGoLander in early 2022.

The name change reflects a repositioning of the business to address the changing challenges and demands of travellers in the wake of Covid-19. "It reminds us that in spite of life's uncertainties and gargantuan challenges, we ought to stay curious, have fun and get creative,” said Hui-Juan.

Both Hui-Juan and Javiny hope more people will appreciate and understand the service and value of travel agents in travel planning.
Both Hui-Juan and Javiny hope more people will appreciate and understand the service and value of travel agents in travel planning.


Dream of turning pro

The two founders are hopeful that the pandemic will be a turning point for travel agents in general and for their services to be viewed a lot more positively and favourably in the post-pandemic era.

This job requires a lot of skills and you also need to know how to read weather charts, forex exchange, everything that’s happening in the world. A travel agent is almost like an investment banker, but without the money.– Lim Hui-Juan, WonderGoLander

“We are hoping that this period of time can help clients to shift away from product and price buying mentality to appreciate the service-based industry and value of travel agents on our whole,” said Javiny.

On their part, the pandemic has driven both founders to re-evaluate their workflow and the fundamental value of their service, leading to the introduction of a service fee since last year. This is a deposit that clients have to pay upfront before WonderGoLander proceeds with the bulk of travel planning, but the fee will be turned into a deposit for clients who book a trip.

The duo sees the service fee model as a positive move for both travel planners and clients as it reduces uncertainties for both parties. This would encourage clients to share their preferences and provide all necessary information from the start, thus enabling advisors to design and craft the most ideal itinerary for them. For the planners, it also compensates them for the hours poured into researching and putting together a quotation.

“It’s a win for both sides,” said Hui-Juan. “It was a model we had been thinking a lot previously. But we didn’t have a chance to roll it out until the pandemic.”

The service fee has also improved efficiency for WonderGoLander. “In simple terms, the process – from inquiry to closing the deal – used to take seven steps or more. But we cut the entire structure down to four steps now, simply by collecting a service fee upfront and getting the commitment early from the client.”

Notably, the reception from clients has been nothing short of positive, said Javiny, in part attributing it to travellers’ realisation of the complexity that goes behind travel planning. It also points to a growing maturity among travellers, she added, as bespoke travel gains a wider following in recent years.

WonderGoLander has introduced a service fee for their bespoke service, which has helped to streamline efficiency and travel planning for clients.
WonderGoLander has introduced a service fee for their bespoke service, which has helped to streamline efficiency and travel planning for clients.


Growing up with the millennials

Among the younger business owners in Singapore’s travel agent field, Hui-Juan and Javiny have adopted a digital mindset from the outset when they founded the business in 2007.

“We grew up with the Internet. We were after the demographic of clients who were pretty much the same age and internet savvy like us. So in that sense, being digital or so called tech oriented, has kind of been with us for a very long time, all the way from the start.”

Yet, tech-savvy clients’ needs have also changed over time. “Our clients also grew up with us. By now they are 15 years into their career, and probably already at the senior manager or management level, so their needs have evolved over time.”

This demographic, in part due to their life stages and time constraints, is now less predisposed “to click buttons to search and DIY for their travel”, noted Hui-Juan. This trend could have been fuelled by the pandemic, she added, as people value their time even more and would pay for a service to buy more freedom.

Interestingly, WonderGoLander is increasingly seeing a younger generation who prefer outsourcing their travel research and planning to the experts, a trend that Hui-Juan believes will grow even more. The company is also getting younger clients in their 20s who are keen to leave all travel planning work to them.

Looking ahead, both Hui-Juan and Javiny hope that more Singapore travellers will come to “appreciate service for what it is”.

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