Downtime? More Like Upskill Time With Virtual Learning! #FlipThatSwitch

12 Sep 2020 Posted in ⟨Stories⟩

The travel industry has been severely impacted since the onset of COVID-19. Regardless, NTUC LearningHub corporate trainee Alicia Seah remains optimistic, viewing the disruption not as a setback, but as a valuable chance for her and her staff to deepen their skill sets from home.

This article is part of our #FlipThatSwitch campaign. Through a series of articles, videos, and social media posts, we shine the spotlight on the various future-ready skills and positive thinking imparted to impacted workers and industries during this period of uncertainty, empowering them to transform their lives and careers for the better.

Before COVID-19, it was business as usual for Alicia Seah, Director of PR & Communications at Dynasty Travel, and all of her colleagues. That meant 10am to 8pm daily retail office hours, tour guides bringing travelers on worldwide adventures, and staff travelling four to six times annually.

But by late March, as the travel industry slowly came to a standstill due to travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, bookings and inquiries ceased, and tours were either cancelled or postponed. Instead of just reacting to the pandemic, the team flipped their switches to #EmergeStronger and have since trained 80% of their staff with NTUC LearningHub (NTUC LHUB) — all from the comfort and safety of their homes via Virtual Live Classes (VLCs)!

“The travel bans led to a rise in customer service demand, as people with travel plans got in touch to cancel or reschedule trips. We embarked on this online learning journey with NTUC LHUB to learn how to communicate effectively, how to solve problems and how to have a listening ear,” said Alicia.

The Virtual Learning Experience

“Yesterday, I learned about the 3 P’s – product, process, and people,” goes a Dynasty Travel staff member as she unmutes her microphone to share with a class of her colleagues and NTUC LHUB trainer, Jasmine Liew in a Zoom call.

That was how day two of Alicia’s VLC for their Respond to Service Challenges course began, with Dynasty Travel trainees taking turns to share a lesson they learned from the day before. By now, the staff are all comfortable interacting with one another on Zoom, having already completed 4 other WSQ courses through virtual classes. Those courses are Effective Communications and Relationship Building, Provide Go-the-Extra-Mile Service, Managing Emotions at Work, and Effective Problem Solving and Decision Making Techniques.

“The advantages of online learning? You have convenience, ease of access and flexibility! Since there are different sessions available, we can attend those that best fit into our work schedule. All you need is a computer with internet access, as the study materials, assignments and evaluation forms are sent to us online. There are definitely cost savings too – no transportation costs needed to travel to venues, no need to eat out during meal times,” smiled Alicia.

But what about the disadvantages? While navigating technology to attend virtual classes might be challenging for the less tech-savvy, Alicia was not worried. “Some of our senior staff members did require some getting used to or encountered some initial technical issues, but our younger team members were also happy to help them out!” she said.

“Even though we are all learning online, the trainers were still very much able to connect and engage effectively with all of us through the screen.”

As for her thoughts on the course trainers teaching over Zoom, Alicia was all smiles. “Some of the trainers are more textbook-focused, some have a more out-of-the-box approach, but all of them are very professional,” mentioned Alicia. “In fact, I felt even more focused learning through the screen! Compared to classrooms or lecture theatres, these Zoom sessions are highly interactive, and you can see the slides crystal clear!”

#FlipThatSwitch To #EmergeStronger

When faced with the reality of the economic downturn, the fact of the matter is that many in the tourism and travel sector might not make it out alive – something that Alicia knows all too well.

“We were able to tap on the government’s job support scheme, tax rebates and incentives to cut down our operation costs, so we are able to retain our staff during this unprecedented crisis,” expressed Alicia thankfully.

“Apart from that, we tapped on the government’s Enterprise Skill Fund and Enhance Training Support Package for the tourism sector, and thus proactively sent our staff for training to gain new skills and competencies,” Alicia continued. “As a result of training, I noticed an improved morale among the employees. All five courses that we have taken were highly relevant in our industry, and I’m sure it will improve our efficiency and productivity for when we reopen.”

Regardless of age or rank, every eligible employee in Dynasty Travel is given the opportunity to attend training, as Alicia proudly shared. Egalitarianism at its finest. “We have employees from as young as 21 to 65 years old, from counter sales to management staff who are all learning together. We take this as a chance to foster team bonding, working on activities together during these programmes and helping each other based on our strengths and weaknesses,” reflected Alicia.

Adapting to the New Normal

Moving forward towards the ‘new normal’, Alicia and Dynasty Travel have so far pivoted to a new way to engage with their customers: social media. “We came up with creative digital content including contests to win shopping and travel vouchers, virtual tours around the world and recommendations for international cuisines that you can order during the circuit breaker,” described Alicia.

“While our marketing is currently limited to our social media platforms, we continue to collaborate with various tourism boards and we’re hopeful to re-launch once the current measures are eased and stabilized. I believe that most Singaporeans are eager to travel once again in a safe and secure manner. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the travel industry and the new norm of travel!”

And their experience with NTUC LHUB is set to continue well into the new normal. According to Alicia, the team is already signed up for the COVID-19 Citizen Defender Programme, among other courses. “We hope to develop knowledge on personal hygiene and safety, and a positive mindset to understand the important role and responsibility of a citizen defender. Our staff will also learn to master customer friendly language to manage difficult conversation with customers. This would give us the confidence to handle potential aggressive behaviors at the workplace,” Alicia informed.

“For us, we are simply thankful that during this COVID-19 crisis, we are still able to send our staff for training,” said Alicia empathetically. “I think a lot of other people in the industry may not be able to do so, but we can and we are motivated to continue this training journey!”

Since 2004, NTUC LearningHub has upskilled over 21,000 organisations and achieved over 2.5 million training places across more than 500 courses with a pool of over 400 certified trainers. We are the leading Continuing Education and Training provider in Singapore and we are here to transform your lifelong employability.

For more information on how we can help, visit our Virtual Roadshow or talk to our friendly Course Consultants by reserving a Virtual Live Advisory appointment today.

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