Despite the absence of several big-name travel agencies, the number of visitors at the first National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) Travel Fair of the year has not been dented.
A NATAS spokesperson said Sunday night (Mar 8) that about 55,200 people visited the three-day fair this year, a slight uptick from 54,275 last February. It waived its S$4 entrance fee this year and, for the first time, offered free shuttle services from the Bedok and Tampines MRT stations to the event at the Singapore Expo.
While the scale of the fair is smaller this year - more than 90 exhibitors, down from 161 last year - vendors that participated in previous years told TODAY they are satisfied with the turnout, with some having seen an increase in enquiries about their tour packages, compared with the same period last year.
The popular fair, which is held twice a year, made headlines last year when 24 travel agencies - including the “big four” of SA Tours, Chan Brothers, Dynasty Travel and CTC Travel - announced they were boycotting the fair to start a rival event, citing NATAS’ lack of transparency, among other things. The fair, called Travel Revolution, will be held at the end of this month at Marina Bay Sands.
Yesterday, ASA Holidays’ assistant manager (marketing and communications) Edward Teh pointed out that the crowd was still streaming in at 5pm. “Last year, around this timing, most in the crowd were already gone,” he said. “But the response this year is overwhelming.”
S Travel director (sales and product development) Richard Yip said sales at his agency remained relatively unchanged from last year, but estimated a 20 per cent rise in enquires about tour packages. “I guess what is holding (this group) back is the other travel fair at the end of this month, so they can compare prices,” he said.
Mr Darren Chew, Asia-Euro Holidays head of department branch control and marketing and communications, said the free shuttle services provided by NATAS managed to draw the crowd. “I didn’t expect the crowd because it’s just after the Chinese New Year period,” he added.
ATG Tours director Summer Khoh said her agency was participating in the NATAS Travel Fair for the first time this year and was pleased with the turnout - the agency received about 100 sales invoices as of 5pm yesterday. There was a long stream of customers between 1pm and 7pm on Saturday and from 3pm yesterday, who asked about the agency’s services and offers.
However, one travel agency, which declined to be named, said it saw the number of enquiries drop from about 100 last year to about 40 this year, and said the withdrawal of the agencies might have diminished interest in the fair.
Patrons at the travel fair said there were noticeably fewer vendors, but did not feel there was much difference in the deals offered this year compared with previous NATAS fairs. But bank executive Teresa Ng, 28, who was attending the fair for the third consecutive time, said she had managed to spot slightly cheaper tour packages.
On Friday, NATAS said it had urged its vendors to come up with better deals to draw the crowd.