2020 in retrospect…
As we wrap up 2020, we look back and reflect on this difficult and eventful year that brought about significant changes in our lives and the way we travel.
2020 was a year that our company was looking forward to. It marks the tenth-year anniversary for our relatively young travel agency, and one we were looking forward to celebrating milestones and creating higher goals. We went out of our way to celebrate by making big plans, the first of which was bringing the entire staff and family on a company trip to Switzerland in early January. But alas, no one would have expected that a global pandemic was hot on our heels right at the start of the eventful year and would have such lasting impact on our lives and the economy.
This year has admittedly been a challenging year for most of us, particularly for us in the tourism sector. In just one year alone, we have gone through many unforeseen changes in our lives. Borders were closed in an unprecedented move by governments worldwide in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, and lockdowns were imposed within countries themselves such that people’s movements were restricted for the very first time in this modern day and age. Travel became nearly impossible for the first time, due to the many uncertainties and risks faced by passengers amidst the unravelling situation across the world.
In Singapore, we too faced our own lockdown in the form of Circuit Breaker, which lasted from 7 April to 4 May 2020. Non-essential businesses – us included – were required to close to comply with the heightened measures to curb the transmission of COVID-19 and most of us, barring frontline and essential workers, were ordered to work from home as much as possible. For us, this was only the beginning of many changes to come.
As travel makes up the core of our business, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered global travel unviable, which meant that our company had zero earnings from the onset of February while still forking out for overhead expenses, staff salaries and other operating costs. With the pandemic looking to get worse still, we had to look towards other avenues and possible solutions in order to make it through this challenging chapter.
With our directors’ lead, our company decided to adopt a proactive and positive mindset in our approach to this bleak situation. Rather than just closing our doors and accepting our fate, we organised brainstorm sessions and had long meetings with our directors to come up with feasible business ideas and concepts that we can further develop and work on, and among those that came to fruition include an online fruit business and virtual tours. Our director, Mr Wong Yew Hoong, explains the importance of diversification quite aptly in his analogy, where he describes a chair with four legs is better than one in terms of stability, which is what he envisions to achieve for the company. Through diversifying and moving along with the times and responding consumers’ evolving needs, EU Holidays will then become resilient in times of crisis and emerge stronger after.
With such preparation works ongoing behind the scenes, our company was more than ready when the Singapore government lifted restrictions to allow travel agencies to resume operations. To keep in line with safe distancing measures, we planned various packages catered for small groups to encourage consumers to explore Singapore in different ways that are unique and novel.
As the COVID-19 situation begins to improve, governments began to open up their borders cautiously and look into how to restart tourism in a safe manner with all safety measures put in place. This was made possible in the form of air travel bubbles, where travellers will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and need not undergo quarantine if their test comes back negative. Though the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble was eventually postponed, it was still a boost of confidence to us as it showed that Singaporeans more than ready to travel given the opportunity.
With all these considerations in mind, our first foray into promoting local tourism is our sail-cation packages. We partnered with Discover Sailing Asia to offer an overnight yacht experience which includes a tour of the Southern islands of Singapore and a night’s stay on the boat. Facing increasing demand shortly after its release, we eventually came up with various other yacht packages to suit different consumer needs, such as a short 3-hour day excursion and special meal offerings to make the experience even more unique.