With more than four decades of experience in the travel industry under his belt, Trevor Rajaratnam has now taken over Go Holidays (Pvt) Ltd as its Chief Executive Officer. A veteran and one of the senior most advocates in Sri Lanka’s travel and tourism industry, Mr. Rajaratnam formerly served as the Head of Mackinnons American [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Travel Agent still an integral part of global travel planning

Internet is cheap and easy, but cannot tackle lost luggage in transit

With more than four decades of experience in the travel industry under his belt, Trevor Rajaratnam has now taken over Go Holidays (Pvt) Ltd as its Chief Executive Officer. A veteran and one of the senior most advocates in Sri Lanka’s travel and tourism industry, Mr. Rajaratnam formerly served as the Head of Mackinnons American Express Travel in Colombo.

With years of toiling in this trade and seeing its transition, Mr. Rajaratnam knows all too well about the dire need for high quality, professional and efficient travel agents. “It is important that we are extremely knowledgeable about the products, services and destinations we sell. Today’s traveller is savvy and knows exactly what he wants. Research is made readily available thanks to the Internet. Tools like Trip Advisor have made people’s lives easier and choices easy to make. The Internet has made global travel easy and cheap! However, in a highly interconnected world where anything can go wrong at any time, it is important that travellers understand the importance of the travel agent. It is imperative that a travel agent provides fast, efficient and professional service ensuring the traveller with a safe, easy and stress free journey. If a passenger loses his luggage on transit, the Internet is not going to find it for him, but a travel agent will do everything within their control to fix the problem. This is the human aspect of the travel business that the Internet can never provide and we as travel agents need to focus on this unique selling proposition. This is the kind of service my team and I strive to deliver at Go Holidays.”

He said, “The only way to keep your travel business alive and create value is to keep dreaming. Create it, capture it and keep renewing it”.

Chronicling the travel industry, he said that the industry has come a long way since the 70s. “We did not have computers then that provided us with information. Today, we have all the information that we need at a click of a button. What we had in those days was a thick book that contained information regarding an itinerary. This book is all we had to refer to when advising clients. We also had to send ‘telex’ messages to airlines to book tickets. Sri Lankans in the 1970s could not buy an air ticket with their own currency. Someone who lived overseas had to pay for it in their own currency. When money was paid to the airline concerned the airline in turn informed us to go ahead and to issue the ticket. It was a time consuming and a cumbersome procedure to say the least. The other challenge that Sri Lankans faced those days was the limited amount of foreign exchange permitted to be taken out of the country. They could take only three pounds and ten shillings out of the country and had to surrender their rice ration book and obtain an exit permit before their departure from the country. We earned our money when payment was made for the air ticket. It was during this era that we, the travel agents entered the travel industry. Things have transitioned dramatically since 1977 following the liberalisation of the economy,” he further stated.

Trevor Rajaratnam

Go Holidays was established 10 years ago with the appointment of STA Travel and the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) to its portfolio of products.

A subsidiary of United Ventures (Pvt) Ltd, the company is the General Sales Agent (GSA) for United Airlines and Air Canada in Sri Lanka.

Go Holidays is always striving to set themselves apart from the rest of the industry. There are 300+ travel agents in Sri Lanka. It is imperative therefore that specialization, creativity and efficient service delivery comes into play in order to survive in this extremely competitive business.

“Through the representation of STA Travel and ISIC, we have succeeded in establishing the organisation as Student Specialists, specialising in discounted travel for students and youth. A student, or youth under 30, travelling to London for example, can now purchase their air ticket for the cheapest fare in the market. Further, if they travel with the ISIC card which is issued in office, they can cash in on over 40,000 discounts both locally and globally. These discounts include and are not limited to Education, Travel, Food and Beverage, Entertainment and Retail with 40 benefits locally, a number that keeps growing,” he said.

The popular establishments are Subway, Dinemore, Barista, Cocoa Verandah, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Domino’s Pizza, David Pieris Automobile and Speed Drome to name a few.

Through the partnership with STA Travel, Go Holidays also promote Eurail, Japan Rail and Euro Star.

Go Holidays specialise in tours to lesser known, unusual and exciting destinations. Some of these remote destinations include the ‘Amazon River Bound Adventure, Highlights of Haiti, Central America Explorer, Costa Rica Family Experience , Hidden China, Mongolia, the Silk Route of China , East Africa, Hiking in the Balkans, the Best of Italy, Eastern Europe Highlights of Israel, High Lights of Morocco, The Far Eastern Region and Alaska by Ferry.

“Asia Travel is another Singapore based online travel company that we partner with, which gives us access to a plethora of hotels, especially in the Far East and the Middle East. This is a great resource especially for our corporate clients as we are able to make last minute hotel and transfer bookings with instant online confirmation. A request made even on the morning of a flight can be attended to with the hotel reservation done by the time they reach their destination.”
Asked about the potential of travel and tourism in Sri Lanka, Mr. Rajaratnam is of the view that people are now travelling more than ever before. Fifty per cent of Sri Lankans travel abroad for employment to the Middle East and the remaining market is spilt among corporate travellers, leisure travellers and traders travelling to India and Bangkok.

With reference to inbound tourism, he said an aggressive marketing campaign has to be launched to unleash the true tourist potential of this country. The domestic aviation industry has to be upgraded for people to travel to distant places like Passikudah and Trincomalee. He said there has to be glitzy upscale super markets and restaurants in the country for tourists to visit in major cities like Kandy Trincomalee, Passikudah, Batticaloa and Dambulla. He is of the view that although Sri Lanka’s image is that of sun, sea, sand and surf; other sporting events and entertainment activities need to be included in order to draw more tourists to the island.

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