Travel TechnologySingapore Tourism Board lends a helping hand to the travel sector to embrace technology and prepare for business after the pandemic.

How digital transformation can set travel agents up for success

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Wong Ming Fai, Chief Technology Officer at STB, urges tourism businesses to tap technology and open new revenue streams.
Wong Ming Fai, Chief Technology Officer at STB, urges tourism businesses to tap technology and open new revenue streams.

Technology has been Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) key rallying call for the travel industry to embark on digital transformation in recent years, an effort that was further intensified since the pandemic.

Wong Ming Fai, Chief Technology Officer at STB, sees an opportunity for tourism businesses to adapt and evolve to address the changes in the travel landscape brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, whether it’s through a willingness to develop and implement new solutions, or to experiment with new ideas and testbed innovative concepts.

Here, Wong discusses with Travel Weekly Asia how STB is helping travel businesses to reimagine the future of tourism and navigate digital transformation challenges.

What’s driving STB’s increased focus on digital transformation since the pandemic?

We must prepare to live with endemic Covid-19, and with that, expect a permanent change in consumer behaviour. Our tourism businesses must continue to be nimble and creative, so they can thrive in uncertain conditions. With virtual experiences and hybrid events here to stay, technology will provide new revenue streams for our tourism businesses.

As such, we want to encourage our industry partners to push boundaries. STB will continue to support them in developing and implementing new solutions, as well as experimenting with new ideas and test-bedding innovative concepts.

This is why we launched Tcube to scale up our digital transformation initiatives and at the same time bring together tourism businesses and technology providers to share knowledge, exchange ideas, and reimagine the future of tourism .

The STB launched Tcube in April 2021 as a hybrid innovation space that brings together several of its existing digital initiatives.
The STB launched Tcube in April 2021 as a hybrid innovation space that brings together several of its existing digital initiatives.

What led to the inception of Tcube? What benefits does it offer to the travel trade?

Launched in April 2021, Tcube is a hybrid innovation space that brings together several of our existing digital initiatives, with new resources and programmes, and organises them under a three-step Learn-Test-Build framework.

In the immediate term, we want to encourage tourism players to 1) Learn — that is, to understand their current state of digital transformation; Tcube then fosters an open innovation environment for tourism businesses to 2) Test — by cultivating a community of tourism innovators to testbed world-first innovative solutions through proof-of-concepts and pilots; and finally, Tcube enables tourism businesses to 3) Build — with a suite of smart services that allow them to tap data and shared content to drive innovation and guide their business decisions.

What's in the suite of smart services?

Tourism Information & Services Hub (TIH) is one such service. Launched in 2018, TIH is a one-stop digital resource platform developed by STB for tourism businesses to access relevant information on Singapore’s tourism offerings and travel software services.

The platform gives businesses access to a resource depository that contains over 4,000 listings and more than 13,000 media assets across multiple categories including attractions, food and beverages, malls and shops, as well as plug-and-play services like a Recommendation Engine and an Itinerary Planner. Real-time information updates are pushed to all TIH-linked tourism-related websites and mobile applications through the use of Application Programme Interfaces (APIs).

With TIH, tourism players can achieve greater exposure for their products and amplify their marketing efforts to reach more channels and broaden their consumer base. They will also be able to connect with other tourism businesses to explore collaborations and build synergistic partnerships.

The STB will soon launch a new module on augmented reality that operators can deploy to enhance their tour experiences.
The STB will soon launch a new module on augmented reality that operators can deploy to enhance their tour experiences.

How can travel agents tap and adopt these digital initiatives?

Travel agents can benefit from many of our digital initiatives. Under the Learn pillar, they can learn more about the latest tech developments and best practices in the marketplace through the Tech College, a series of technology and innovation-related courses, workshops and webinars organised by STB. We'll be launching a new module on augmented reality, which they can deploy to enhance their tour experiences. More details on this will be available soon.

Travel agents can also tap the Tourism Transformation Index (TXI), a self-diagnostic tool that diagnoses the current state of transformation for a company and provides targeted recommendations to companies.

We also launched a content series on transformative leadership this year, which includes a case study on how Nam Ho DMC pivoted during the pandemic. Such insights help other travel agents tackle their own challenges and inspire them to transform their businesses. The full series is available on the Tcube website at go.gov.sg/tcube.

Under the Test pillar, Tcube provides consultancy and prototyping services to help travel agents to identify key problem statements, conduct user research, ideate possible solutions and map their transformation journey. They can also partner with us through the Singapore Tourism Accelerator to testbed innovative solutions through proof-of-concepts and pilots to re-invent tourism offerings. To date, 37 tourism industry partners have come on board the programme, of which four are travel agents. The Accelerator has already supported 25 start-ups to develop 35 industry solutions across the first three cohorts.

Under the Build pillar, travel agents can tap on TIH to create more exposure for their products, amplify their online marketing efforts to reach more channels and broaden their consumer base. They will also be able to connect with key tourism businesses to explore collaborations and build synergistic partnerships. For travel agents, tours are a key content component in TIH, which can extend their reach and exposure to a wider audience.

How is the response from the industry so far?

We are encouraged by the strong interest from our tourism stakeholders who have tapped on Tcube to transform their businesses. On average, each of our virtual Tcube sessions is attended by more than 100 participants, while more than 5,800 tourism businesses have also signed up for TIH. We also invite technology and service providers to be part of a community of tourism innovators through programmes like the Singapore Tourism Accelerator to develop quality solutions and pilot them with our tourism industry players.

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