Natas rival says 55,200 travel fair visitor figures 'impossible'

Spat between travel groups heats up with latest claim of inflated numbers

An ongoing spat between rival travel fairs has taken a fresh turn, with accusations of inflated visitor numbers.

Natas Travel said its three-day event over the past weekend attracted 55,200 people, about 1,000 more than last year.

But its rival, Travel Revolution 2015, said the figure was "unrealistic" - a charge that was immediately refuted by Natas, the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore.

In a statement to The Straits Times, Travel Revolution's working committee said the Natas fair occupied less space and crowds were thinner.

"If reported numbers are true, that would mean... an estimated 2,000 people attended every hour," said the breakaway group of agencies.

"Since there is only one main entrance, there will be a queue to get in. We understand that there was no queue to enter so the numbers are just impossible."

It was reported that 8,500 people attended on March 6, the first day of the fair.

Pointing out that admission to the fair was free, for the first time, Travel Revolution working committee spokesman Alicia Seah said: "There is a big question mark over how they count their numbers. Without ticketing, how do you accurately count visitorship?"

The allegation was refuted by a Natas spokesman, who said the figures released are "definitely above-board".

Security guards were stationed at the fair's entrance with two clickers and told to make deductions for multiple-entry visitors, he said, adding that the numbers on the two clickers were compared and averaged.

"I don't think there is a need to doubt each other's figures. It doesn't help in any way. I wish them well and that they will have a good fair."

This is the latest salvo in an intensifying tit-for-tat row. Natas, representing some 340 agents, has been organising its popular biannual fair since 1987.

Last November, 30 agencies, including the "Big Four" - Dynasty Travel, SA Tours, CTC Travel and Chan Brothers - pulled out, citing Natas' refusal to say where fair proceeds went, escalating booth rental costs, and the lack of event publicity. They went on to plan their own event, which will be held from March 27 to 29.

As a result, the Natas fair had 92 exhibitors, down from 161 last year. But to entice visitors, admission was free and complimentary shuttle bus services offered.

It led to better sales for some exhibitors. Citystate Travel executive director Albert Ho, 59, said he sold more than 1,000 cruise packages - up 20 per cent from last year's fair.

"We were surprised. Maybe it was because we have new ships coming here," he said.

"I think we should all be together. Consumers need to go to only one fair, and everything is there. If there are too many, they may get fair fatigue after a while."

But consumers like sales executive Chan Chin Hee, 50, thinks that competition is good.

"Now the fairs are free, and there is shuttle bus service. If there wasn't any competition do you think this would be the case? I don't think so."

limjess@sph.com.sg