Taipei Times (TT): Given the improved economic sentiment in Taiwan this year, what is your outlook for the tourism industry?
Albert Pei (裴信祐): The domestic tourism sector could show a continuous upturn this year on the back of various positive drivers.
For instance, the number of holidays this year will be higher than last year.
In addition, many people view the global economy as making a gradual recovery this year from last year, both at home and abroad.
This optimistic view will help boost the stock market and enhance demand for leisure activities such as travel.
TT: What is your sales forecast for Lion Travel Service Co Ltd (雄獅旅行社) this year and during the Lunar New Year holiday?
Pei: Lion Travel posted NT$12.87 billion (US$433.95 million) in revenue last year, up 15.8 percent from a year earlier. For this year, we aim for double-digit growth in sales on the back of bullish market sentiment.
Because the Lunar New Year holiday was longer than usual and allowed more people to travel abroad, which helped maintain strong seasonal demand.
National Immigration Agency date showed that the number of outbound and inbound travelers stood at 100,000 on every single day of the Lunar New Year holidays, with the number on Feb. 15 hitting the record high level of 138,000 people.
As a result, we expect revenue this month to be higher than the NT$905.96 million recorded last month.
TT: Lion Travel is to become the second travel agency to be listed on the main bourse, following Phoenix Tours International Inc (鳳凰國際旅行社). What is the timetable for the TWSE debut? And what is your plan for the IPO for Lion Travel?
Pei: Following our listing on the Emerging Stock Market (興櫃市場) in October last year, we plan to submit the required documents for primary listing on the TWSE in the second quarter.
We expect to list on the main bourse in July at the earliest, if the application process goes smoothly.
Lion Travel’s profitability is good, so our IPO plan is not based on a demand for capital from the equity market. [Lion Travel posted a net income of NT$55.63 million, or NT$1.01 per share, in the first six months of last year, its stock exchange filing shows.]
The main reason for the IPO is to achieve stronger brand identification and brand trust.
Meanwhile, the company expects to strengthen its management through the IPO process, making sure its structure is thoroughly examined by the public.
For example, we have expanded our board of directors to seven members, with five being external or independent directors, which we believe can help ensure the professionalism of the company’s management.
TT: What will be the next step for Lion Travel after the IPO plan?
Pei: Lion Travel plans to continue expanding its service bases after the IPO. Currently, the company has 60 service liaisons in Taiwan, and plans to expand by more than 10 bases by the end of this year.
In addition, the company will maintain its focus on research and development [R&D] with the aim of initiating new products and services.
We believe that making more effort to differentiate our products from our peers will help us enhance its competitiveness, which in turn will help maintain sales and profitability, even when public sentiment in the tourism sector is down on the impact of a slowing economy.
TT: What is the company’s strategy for differentiation?
Pei: We currently follow the “3C” business model. 3C stands for community, content and commerce.
By grouping customers by mutual interests, the company can organize events targeting these groups with new travel products.
Once the agency launches a new product for a certain group, it can easily promote the tour to group members.
TT: Is Lion Travel considering expanding its business scope overseas?
Pei: Definitely. Currently, Lion Travel has 13 service bases in Asia, North America and Oceania.
We have been planning to expand the 3C model to the overseas market for years, which in the long run may help Lion Travel become a global travel brand and travel network service provider.
China will be the most important market in the preliminary stage.
The company’s subsidiary in Shanghai received a business license for wholly-owned travel agency in 2011, and has started to offer a one-stop service for Lion Travel group visitors from Taiwan, instead of outsourcing to local agencies.
In the future, we hope to expand the service in China by offering our services to Chinese tourists in Taiwan, and further to other countries, duplicating the same business in other regions.