Natas hits out at breakaway group of travel agencies as row deepens

People at the Natas Holidays travel fair held in August 2014 at the Singapore Expo. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
People at the Natas Holidays travel fair held in August 2014 at the Singapore Expo. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) Tuesday hit out at a breakaway group of agencies for tarnishing its reputation and spreading what it claims to be "untruths" about the association.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Natas president Devinder Ohri said the association found out about the 24 agencies' plan to hold a rival travel fair only through media reports.

He added that Natas had decided to bring forward the dates of its March travel fair as it was the responsible thing to do. Having two fairs on the same dates would cause inconvenience to exhibitors and consumers, he explained.

This development is the latest in a row which erupted late last month. On Nov 25, several heavyweights in the industry, including SA Tours, CTC Travel and Chan Brothers Travel, announced their decision to boycott the Natas fair over issues such as booth rental fees, admission charges for the public and unsatisfactory publicity for the event.

Despite subsequent concessions from Natas, the breakaway group of 24 agencies stuck to its plan to hold its Outbound Travel Fair from March 27 to 29, the initial dates of the Natas fair. It will take place at The Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

In what seemed like a tit-for-tat response, Natas told its members via a circular on Dec 1 that it would be bringing forward the dates of its travel fair at Singapore Expo by three weeks.

The new dates - March 6 to 8 - would suit exhibitors and consumers as the fair will take place immediately after the 15th day of Chinese New Year and on the weekend just before the March school holidays, Mr Ohri said.

"We anticipate our two fairs next year will draw an equal if not an increase in visitors," he said. Both fairs in March and August this year drew over 110,00 visitors.

The Natas fair, held twice a year, is the biggest in Singapore and generates millions of dollars in sales.

In response to the breakaway group's complaint on the lack of transparency in how proceeds from the fairs are being used, Mr Ohri said Natas was guarded about revealing such details as it felt the breakaway group was fishing for information.

"Don't you think we would be a bit more guarded since we've been (organising travel fairs) for so many year?" he said.

"And they now want to go into the business of organising a travel fair. Naturally we would be a little reluctant to share the nitty gritty details of what percentage we spend on advertising and promotion, what kind of suppliers we use and things like that."

mellinjm@sph.com.sg