Natas fair moving from bargain centre to 'carnival' event

Natas Holidays travel fair in August 2014.
Natas Holidays travel fair in August 2014.PHOTO: ST FILE

The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) travel fair is moving away from being merely a "bargain centre" for cheap deals.

New executive director Steven Lek plans to give the event a carnival-like atmosphere, with performers from Bhutan, China and Indonesia, and an international food street to give visitors a taste of the destinations they can visit.

The next Natas fair will be held from July 31 to Aug 2 at Singapore Expo Halls 3B and 4, and admission is free.

It is looking to set itself apart from rival fair Travel Revolution, which will take place from Friday to Sunday.

That has been organised by the Singapore Outbound Travel Agents Association (Sotaa), which was formed in May by a breakaway group of agencies unhappy with how Natas runs its fairs.

Admission to the three-day fair at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre Halls D to F is also free.

It will feature 77 exhibitors, of which 37 are travel agencies.

Mr Lek said the spat between both groups is a "family dispute".

"Natas is focusing on the experience," said Mr Lek. "We'll also showcase more cultural performances and international cuisine. Numbers (of exhibitors) and physical size (of the fair) alone do not make a good travel fair," he added.

He said that Natas has to cater to the needs of its smaller member agencies. Of the 83 exhibitors at the Natas fair, 22 are travel agencies.

The rest include airlines, hotels and other travel-related businesses, as well as first-time exhibitor Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which will be raising awareness on travel-related health matters and vaccinations.

Natas aims to attract 55,000 visitors over the three-day fair, which was the estimated attendance of its last fair in March.

Sotaa's target for its fair is 80,000. Its interim president Kay Swee Pin said: "We intend to be the bargain centre for deals. It's what travellers want. Our agencies can sell products at cheaper rates because we expect the (sales) volume to be high."

Travel Revolution will not feature any cultural performances, added Ms Kay, who was voted out as chairman of Natas' outbound committee in October.

UOB Travel Planners' executive director Steven Ler took over her post at Natas on July 1.

The embattled association has seen five people resign recently, including acting chief executive Patricia Auyeong and chief operating officer Anita Tan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Natas fair moving from bargain centre to 'carnival' event'. Print Edition | Subscribe