Image(L-R) Larry Lo, MD, and Henry Chu, finance director, Westminster Travel. Photo by Leong Chan Teik
WESTMINSTER TRAVEL, which is listed on the Singapore Exchange, has seen a steady increase in the travel business and is cautiously optimistic about the year-end holiday business.

”More businessmen are traveling There is a pick-up,” said Larry Lo, the managing director, during a chat with me when he was in Singapore for the company's AGM recently.

Westminister derives about 55% of its revenue from corporate customers and 31.6% from wholesale. The rest comes from leisure and inbound travel.

Added Henry Chu, the finance director: ”We have seen a steady recovery in the travel business, which is interlinked with the economy, in the last few months, but we cannot conclude that this is sustainable."

Especially for the retail travel sector, the big discount in prices of hotel rooms and airline tickets have helped to stimulate demand, said Henry.

Asked about the likely response from the retail travel sector to the year-end holiday season, Larry said it’s still too early to tell. However, he added, airlines and hotels are preparing for a good response.

Moved out of prime area

Shareholders, or anyone, wishing to visit the head office of Westminster Travel in Hong Kong will find it has recently moved out from the prime location of Tsimshatsui to an outlying area.

That area is Kwun Tong, a manufacturing area that is seeing the emergence of more commercial buildings tenanted by businesses that does not see any more reason for paying high rentals in central locations.
   
WESTMINSTER  TRAVEL
Recent stock price 18 cents
Market cap S$50.4 million
52-week high/low 25.5 cts/8.5 cts

Historical PE ratio

16.8X
   

Westminster – which was named ‘Best Travel Agency-Hong Kong’ at this year’s TTG Travel awards - is not the only travel agent to move to Kwun Tong for rates that are lower than those in Tsimshatsui and elsewhere.

Prior to Westminster’s move in June, another major travel agent had moved to Kwun Tong for a year already.

”We hear two more big travel agents will move to Kwun Tong by the end of this year,” said Larry.

Westminster used to occupy two floors in Tsimshatsui but its new head office now occupies one floor which is about 20,000 sq ft  (the gross area is near 27,000 sq ft, including common areas such as corridor and lift lobby).

This is smaller than the aggregate floor space of the office in Tsimshatsui but there is more efficiency of operations and more closeness among the staff, according to Henry Chu, the finance director.

There is even space for more than 50 extra desks – which will be installed as part of Westminster’s business expansion in future – because there is no duplication of facilities such as pantries and toilets and training rooms.

It has chosen the most convenient location – in a major shopping mall atop an underground MTR station – the Kwun Tong station.

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