Travel firm all set for takeoff

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Thai is expanding and needs 100 more staff to tap the rising demand for leisure tours

HONG THAI TRAVEL Services has been operating for more than 40 years and plans to add 100 staff to further expand its business.

Founded in 1966, the company has 1,100 employees in Hong Kong. It intends to recruit the additional staff early this year as part of its plan to develop into a one-stop shop for travel products and services.

The additional jobs are dispersed across the company's different operations, but demand is biggest for travel consultants and ticketing staff because of a change in the preferences of Hong Kong people for leisure travel.

'Although package tours are still the preferred choice for outbound leisure travel, more Hong Kong people are opting to travel on their own to enjoy greater flexibility and freedom. We need more staff with the necessary professional knowledge to service this emerging market,' general manager Susanna Lau Mei-sze said.

'Unlike tour guides who are responsible for leading package tours and servicing customers over the counter in our branches, travel consultants specialise in advising independent travellers and helping them to tailor-design travel plans. They need to have excellent knowledge of different areas, such as air routes, flight patterns, holiday destinations, the facilities of different hotels, and what discounts and premiums are available to offer customers sound advice.'

A travel consultant at Hong Thai needs to have completed Form Five and have at least five years of relevant experience. Newcomers may work their way up from an assistant ticketing officer to ticketing officer before being promoted to the travel consultant level. Outstanding performers who make it to the senior consultant rank may have the opportunity to move on to branch management duties.

'Experience and knowledge accumulation is very important in the travel industry. Our senior consultants possess these, and if they show potential for management responsibilities we will let them try supervisory roles in the branches,' Ms Lau said.

The main thrust of Hong Thai's management training is its management trainee programme for university graduates which started 10 years ago.

'We have very diversified operations, which means our management trainees can learn about different things to help them explore their potential and interest,' Ms Lau said, adding that although qualifications and requirements varied among jobs, certain attributes were important for working in the travel trade.

'A passion for travel is essential, especially where our tour guides and travel consultants are concerned. Personality and attitude are also important. We are a service-orientated business and our staff need to be outgoing, pleasant, energetic and articulate. They must accept working irregular hours and, in the case of our tour guides, regular travel which inevitably affects family life.'

Ms Lau said that staff mobility in the sector had risen because of increasing competition for talent in the general market. But this had not affected Hong Thai's commitment to investing in its employees.

'We have to move with the times and help our staff do so with training and development. Crisis management is now a hot topic for training our tour guides because the world around us is much more complex than before. For our staff in general we provide study subsidies to encourage them to improve themselves. We also arrange job rotation where this is suitable.'

As a market leader, Hong Thai also offers a stable and caring work environment giving it an advantage in attracting and retaining staff. On top of basic provisions such as leave and medical benefits, the company organises recreational activities for staff and their families such as sports days and competitions, and low-season educational tours.

Just the ticket

100 staff in different areas of operations will be recruited early this year

The biggest need is for travel consultants and ticketing staff The ticketing staff may move up the ranks to become consultants

Outstanding senior travel consultants may have the opportunity to assume branch management duties

Willingness to travel, an outgoing personality and a positive attitude are important attributes