Good crowds at travel fairs despite headwinds

Sotaa's Travel Revolution drew 82,000 visitors over three days last month, an 8 per cent increase over its April fair last year. Last weekend's Natas fair saw 58,000 visitors. Though it fell short of the 60,000 target, the figure is still 5 per cent
Last weekend's Natas fair saw 58,000 visitors. Though it fell short of the 60,000 target, the figure is still 5 per cent more than last year's March event.PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Sotaa’s Travel Revolution drew 82,000 visitors over three days last month, an 8 per cent increase over its April fair last year.
Sotaa’s Travel Revolution drew 82,000 visitors over three days last month, an 8 per cent increase over its April fair last year. PHOTO: CHAN BROTHERS TRAVEL

Two major fairs see more visitors, with Japan, Europe and cruises in demand

Japan, Europe and cruises were the top picks of consumers at two recent major travel fairs that saw healthy crowds despite the weaker economic outlook.

The Travel Revolution fair, organised by the Singapore Outbound Travel Agents Association (Sotaa), attracted 82,000 visitors over three days last month, an 8 per cent increase over its April fair last year, according to figures released this week. It was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

This exceeded the 58,000 who turned up at a fair held at the Singapore Expo last weekend by its more established rival, the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas). The turnout was 2,000 shy of Natas' 60,000 target, but was 5 per cent more than its March fair last year.

Sotaa was formed last May by 25 agencies that pulled out of Natas' twice-yearly fairs to organise their own fair, Travel Revolution.

Members which broke away include major agencies Chan Brothers Travel, CTC Travel and Dynasty Travel. They cited reasons such as admission charges for the public and unsatisfactory publicity.

Japan, a perennial favourite, was the most sought-after destination at Travel Revolution, while cruises were in high demand, especially by extended families, at the Natas fair.

Sales of cruise packages at Citystate Travel, which had a booth at the Natas fair, rose 10 per cent from a year ago. Those who booked their year-end cruise packages got "early bird" discounts of 5 per cent to 15 per cent, which contributed to the brisk sales, according to executive director Albert Ho.

"The bulk of the bookings were for cruises sailing out of Singapore to regional destinations like Langkawi, Phuket and Port Klang," he said. "Prices are the lowest they've ever been because of the slowing economy. We don't know if demand will pick up later this year."

The gloomy economy meant that consumers were more careful with their spending.

Sotaa president Kay Swee Pin, who is also managing director of SA Tours, said: "Consumers are looking for value and prices have become extremely competitive."

She noted that bookings to destinations such as Hong Kong and Taiwan fell significantly as more consumers choose to book their trips directly on airline and hotel websites, and online travel agencies.

Exotic destinations were also a hit. At Chan Brothers Travel, Iceland, Croatia, Slovenia, South Africa and Fiji packages were in demand, while one of ASA Holidays' best-selling packages was its new 11-day itinerary to Russia .

Old favourite South Korea made a comeback after a lacklustre 2015, when bookings fell following a Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) outbreak. Bookings have now returned to pre-outbreak levels, according to Dynasty Travel.

Auditor Christine Tay, 28, went to Travel Revolution to check the prices of flight and hotel packages to Seoul, South Korea's capital.

She said: "I'm a big fan of Korean dramas, and hope to visit some of the sites where they were filmed."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Good crowds at travel fairs despite headwinds'. Print Edition | Subscribe