VETERAN travel industry entrepreneur Albert See sees new technology as a key weapon in his plans to compete against the big companies.

He intends to use new technology to provide customised solutions for budget-conscious travellers.

"We've flight and hotel bookings, sightseeing tours and other services on an online site. The consumer can pay online and complete his transaction with us," said Mr See, managing director and chief executive of Air Sino-Euro Associates (ASA) Travel.

"But he can save about $200 within 24 hours of the reservation

if he walks into our office to pay us in person.

"Or he can decide to make partial payment, and the rest in a face-to-face transaction. He can save more if he pays by cash or cheque."

Having been in the travel business for more than 50 years, Mr See, 75, said he has to use technology to offer better services to compete against the big travel companies like American Express Travel.

"People like the convenience of going online to buy air tickets and book hotel rooms and tour packages. But if something goes wrong, or if you need urgently to return to Singapore when you are overseas, you can't call anyone to make the arrangement. ASA will offer telephone support even when you make online transactions. We can do this," added Mr See, who was speaking to The Straits Times at his People's Park Complex office.

But with 150 employees and only a four-man IT team, it was not possible for ASA to build its website itself.

So he turned to a three-year-old local start-up, Pytheas Infosys.

The firm already has about 50 travel firms using its product to develop their own portals.

Pytheas co-founder Jorim Fu said: "With our technology, ASA Travel is becoming a click and mortar travel firm. Now it has the customisable features that Mr See wanted."

ASA's earlier website provided only information but its portal today can undertake transactions. ASA travel staff can also make changes to its pricing and customisable offerings on the fly without having to take down the website for maintenance.

The next step is more ambitious: Mr See's vision is to form a consortium with fellow small and medium-sized travel agents in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Chinese provinces like Guangdong so they can negotiate collectively for better prices with airlines, hotels and other organisations.

Mr See noted: "Now we can let our business partners use this platform. We can cross-sell and cross-market. The industry is very competitive. We've to use technology to compete against the big boys."