In response to Natas' decision to waive entrance fees for next year's travel fair, the 24 agencies which have pulled out are sticking by their decision to proceed with their own event at The Sands Expo and Convention Centre from Mar 27 to 29, 2015.
The Straits Times reported that the agencies were upset with rental charges by Natas and the $4 admission fee which they feel pushes customers away.
They also complained that the event publicity was "lacklustre" and that there is not enough transparency about the usage of proceeds from the fairs.
SINGAPORE - The National Association of Travel Agencies Singapore (Natas) said today that it will waive the entrance fees to next year's travel fair in conjunction with Singapore's 50th birthday.
The announcement was made at a forum which Natas conducted with its members on Thursday. 120 representatives from some 70 members, including travel agents, airlines, industry partners and other travel organisations turned up for the forum.
This meet-up comes after news that the "Big Four" travel agencies - CTC Travel, Dynasty Travel, Chan Brothers Travel and SA Tours - said that they were pulling out of Natas and holding a separate fair.
They cited disagreements over the entrance fees and how the proceeds from the fair were used as reasons for pulling out.
According to various media reports, so far 24 travel agencies have indicated that they would pull out of Natas and joining the rival fair that will be held at the same time as Natas from March 27-29, 2015 with free admission.
According to a statement released to the media from Natas, today's forum addressed the above two issues, as well as cost of booth rental and marketing efforts for Natas fairs.
President of Natas, Mr Devinder Ohri, said: "The outcome (of the forum) was very positive." However, he said: "While we cannot announce any specific details at the present moment, Natas is optimistic that a resolution can be achieved."
In response to travel agencies pulling out, Mr Ohri said: "It is a commercial decision if our members should choose to organise their own travel fair, and we have no issues with them doing so."
"However, we are of the opinion that having a single travel fair will benefit the industry and consumers the most in the long run, and we will continue to engage our members to bring this matter to a swift resolution," he added.
Other than waiving the admission fees for next year's fair, Mr Ohri also said that booth rental rates have been adjusted, giving exhibitors approximately 18-22 per cent of savings. As for booth selection, the fair organiser said it will be switching to an open balloting system.
Addressing concerns on the disclosure of how the proceeds of the travel fairs are being used, Mr Ohri stressed that the audited accounts are transparent and have always been available to all members in the annual financial report. "Our accounts are open, however, some information are subject to non-disclosure agreements signed with partners, and we are therefore not at liberty to disclose. We will be more than happy to review the amount of information shared with our members," he said.
In addition, Natas also said that a travel fair would benefit from having a neutral 3rd party, namely, the Secretariat, as the organiser, "to minimize the risk of encountering any conflicts of interest."
Mr Ohri welcomes members to rejoin Natas, adding that he would like to call upon our members to "come together as a singular, cohesive body to work together to raise the industry to new heights".
Natas has been organising travel fairs since 1987 and each fair "attracts tens of thousands of visitors and generates millions in sales", according to Today.