Natas' rival travel fair attracts 27,000 visitors

Turnout beats first-day attendance at Natas fair in March

A travel fair organised by local agencies disgruntled with the one run by the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) has already edged ahead of its more well-established rival.

The inaugural Travel Revolution 2015, which opened yesterday at Marina Bay Sands, received 26,500 visitors as of 8pm - 12,000 more than the first-day turnout at Natas' fair.

The three-day fair is organised by 24 agencies - including the four major players Chan Brothers Travel, CTC Travel, Dynasty Travel and SA Tours - which had pulled out of the Natas fair, citing issues such as admission charges for the public and unsatisfactory publicity.

The free fair brings together more than 70 exhibitors in a 17,000 sq m space.

Travel Revolution spokesman Alicia Seah said: "We are hopeful of achieving a total of 80,000 visitors and $100 million in sales turnover for the three-day event."

She added that despite initial worries about having to reschedule the event from March 27 to 29, as it fell within the mourning period for Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the shift had worked to the fair's advantage.

"As we open on Good Friday, a public holiday, families don't have to take time off to come," she said.

The shift forced overseas operators such as Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) to rebook flights and accommodation. But none of JNTO's 13 partners pulled out.

JNTO deputy director Susan Maria Ong said: "In terms of cost and budgeting, it is better for us if there is one fair instead of two, as now we have to split the budget."

Some exhibitors said they charged customers less due to the fair's lower operating costs.

Nam Ho Travel senior marketing executive Hallie Chua, 25, said: "Costs are about 20 per cent to 30 per cent lower so we can charge less for packages - up to $1,000 less for a couple's package to Taiwan, for example."

Natas spokesman Gregory Tan, referring to Travel Revolution's figures, said: "We wish them well for their fair. It is encouraging to see that the public is supporting the travel industry in such numbers as reported."

IT executive Jasmin Chia, 37, said she skipped the Natas fair as the big brands she was looking for were not taking part.

Nanyang Technological University student Aravind, 23, who goes by one name, found a good Hong Kong tour deal for his family of five. He found a two-night package for $4,500 at Natas but Chan Brothers at Travel Revolution offered a four-night package at $4,000.

However, engineer Kelvin Lee, 45, said he found that prices at Natas were 10 per cent cheaper, and that there were slightly more free gifts. "It's good to have two different fairs. It's more competitive and better for consumers."

The Natas fair, which was held from March 6 to 8 at the Singapore Expo, saw about 55,200 visitors over its three days.

oliviaho@sph.com.sg