Spike in visitors to Natas travel fair, as some agencies return

Visitors to the Natas travel fair last Saturday. The three-day event at the Singapore Expo ended yesterday. It was spread over 11/2 halls, as opposed to the usual one hall, and featured 600 booths, more than double the 291 last year. And entry was fr
Visitors to the Natas travel fair last Saturday. The three-day event at the Singapore Expo ended yesterday. It was spread over 1½ halls, as opposed to the usual one hall, and featured 600 booths, more than double the 291 last year. PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The crowds have given the thumbs up to this year's National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) travel fair, the first since some members of a break-off group rejoined after a two-year absence.

Over three days till it ended yesterday, the fair attracted nearly 111,000 visitors, almost double the 58,000 at last year's event.

The fair, held at the Singapore Expo, has been  free to the public since 2015. Travel 2017 was the fifth fair with free admission. 

This year, the fair was spread over 1½ halls, as opposed to the usual one hall, and featured 600 booths, more than double the 291 last year.

Bank manager Jade Tan, 53, said she was pleasantly surprised by the free admission. She also enjoyed the variety. Armed with several brochures, she was on the hunt for Japan travel deals.

CHANGES MADE

They have addressed the issues. The committee is made up of agencies participating in the fair, the admission is free, and the rentals are 30 per cent lower.

DYNASTY TRAVEL'S DIRECTOR OF MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS ALICIA SEAH, on returning to the Natas fair.

"I have always believed that there will be better deals here. That's why I have been going to the booths that offer what I want, to see if they will work for me."

The nearly 20 returning members, which have now left the rival Travel Revolution fair, include big boys Dynasty Travel and CTC Travel.

Dynasty Travel's director of marketing communications, Ms Alicia Seah, said it was a business decision to return to the Natas fair.

"They have addressed the issues. The committee is made up of agencies participating in the fair, the admission is free, and the rentals are 30 per cent lower," she said, referring to some of the changes that those who left had wanted.

She added that having one fair would also benefit others involved, such as airlines and overseas tourism boards, as they enjoy lower costs from taking up booths at just one fair.

As of 4pm yesterday, Ms Seah said the agency is on track to meeting the sales target of $10 million to $12 million from the fair. This would amount to a 20 per cent increase from the same period last year, she said.

A spokesman for CTC Travel said sales are up 30 per cent, compared with the same period last year.

Both agencies said the high turnout was due to Natas' established brand, and its 50th travel fair anniversary this year.

Other than Japan, South Korea and China - popular destinations in April and May for their floral displays - countries that were surprise hits this year included exotic European destinations such as Croatia and the Balkans.

The Genting Dream luxury cruise ship, which will make Singapore its home port from Dec 3, was also popular at New Shan Travel. "Singaporeans just love new ships. We have bookings till March next year," said the firm's assistant general manager Chris Tay.

The Singapore Outbound Travel Agents Association was formed in May 2015 by 25 agencies that pulled out of Natas' twice-yearly fairs to organise their own fair, Travel Revolution.

Despite many travel agencies moving back to the Natas fair, big players such as Chan Brothers Travel, SA Tours and Apple Holidays are staying put in Travel Revolution. It will be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre from Friday to Sunday.

Correction note: In our earlier story, we said the fair this year was free to the public for the first time since 1988. This is incorrect. The fair has been free to the public since 2015. We apologise for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'Spike in visitors to Natas travel fair, as some agencies return'. Print Edition | Subscribe