Travelling to work

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 12:00am

INTERESTED IN sightseeing in mainland China? How about spicing it up with some work experience?

STA Travel's Hong Kong branch, which was set up just seven months ago, will be taking its first group of STA Travel Global Education (STAGE) travellers to China. The agent is no newcomer to Hong Kong as its products, such as STA air tickets, used to be available at another local travel agent.

Setting up the Hong Kong branch forms part of its goal to operate in every major city. It is also hoped that the local branch will be able to provide support when new branches open in China, says managing director Andrew Tam Shu-fan.

Established more than 25 years ago by a group of young Australians as Student Travel Australia to help young people travel within a limited budget, the business grew internationally, leading to the change of name to STA Travel to give it a global flavour.

Now the agent operates more than 400 branches in 75 countries. Apart from booking flights and rooms, and issuing international student identity cards, STA aims to offer sound travel advice and emphasises education through travel.

This means more than language learning tours that take youngsters to China, England and other English-speaking countries. The STAGE Career in China programme sends university graduates to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to explore the prospect of working on the mainland.

The travellers will spend most of their time at seminars about work conditions and related regulations, and on corporate visits. Job interviews can even be arranged if necessary.

Another programme, STAGE China Work Experience, puts participants on five-week internships (weekends are for sightseeing). Certificates will be given to the interns, who must be at least 16 years old.

Corporations already signed up come from banking and finance, media and information technology industries, among others.

Mr Tam points out that young people who are tempted to work in China need a better understanding of how things work there.

'Even though we are all Chinese, it is still a culture shock,' he stresses.

The programme also highlights another STA motto: as local as possible, as global as necessary. It strives to satisfy needs that vary in different places. 'Here, graduates are taking longer to find jobs. Many are eyeing career prospects in China,' Mr Tam says. 'This is the local need. The difficulty of job seeking is not a lack of ability, but a lack of opportunities.'

Tour services such as backpackers' tours are also being planned and contracts are being negotiated. Mr Tam estimates a diversity of tours will make it into the catalogue within six months.

'At its most ideal form, travelling promotes world peace by bringing people closer together, and helping them overcome political, religious, and cultural gaps,' Mr Tam says.

'For individuals, it provokes interest in learning. And for Hong Kong youngsters in general, it also teaches them to become more independent.'

So, next time you think of going on a grand adventure, don't forget to check out this travel agent.

Visit or call 2736 1618 for more details about STAGE programmes.