Singaporeans going to exotic places and on longer trips: Natas

People at the Japan booth the at Natas Travel Fair 2013 held at the Singapore Expo on Feb 22, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN
People at the Japan booth the at Natas Travel Fair 2013 held at the Singapore Expo on Feb 22, 2013. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

From Turkey to Tibet - the travel bug has been biting Singaporeans harder than ever, thanks to low-cost airlines and a stronger currency.

Not only are locals travelling longer, they are also spending more by going to more exotic locations according to a straw poll conducted by the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas).

Last month's survey of 20 outbound travel agencies here found that a Singaporean who booked a flight in the first seven months of this year went away for an average of seven days. It was five days during the same period last year, said Natas chief operating officer Anita Tan.

Travellers are also paying between $1,500 and $2,000 for their package or free-and-easy booking, an increase of 20 per cent from last year. This was due to more Singaporeans putting more unusual destinations, including South Africa and Mongolia, on the itinerary, said Ms Tan.

The Maldives has been particularly popular. Its blue waters have pulled in 50 per cent more Singaporeans over the past two years, with arrivals this year hitting 5,084 according to the government there. Another hot spot is Turkey, which welcomed 10,364 Singaporeans in the first half of the year, 22 per cent over 2011, despite recent protests there.

CTC Travel, one of the major agencies here, has also been selling twice as many packages to Tibet and Mongolia compared to last year. Ms Alicia Seah, the firm's senior vice-president, said: "The low-cost carriers really fuelled interest."

Chan Brothers highlighted a 20 per cent rise in packages to the Maldives and 15 per cent to South Africa. Online travel giant Zuji reported triple the bookings to Male and Hokkaido from Singapore, according to a sales report released yesterday.

Ms Eileen Oh, head of marketing and communications at ASA Holidays, which has seen bookings to Hokkaido surge by 30 per cent for travel from now till year-end, believes the strong Singapore dollar has helped to make longer-haul trips more affordable.

Ms Jean Chia, 33, has opted for a week in Hokkaido instead of her usual three-day getaway in Kuala Lumpur. Said the baker, who is paying $7,000 for the trip for three. "I want a different experience."

limjess@sph.com.sg