Travel story turns sour as Natas slams rival

Travel story turns sour as Natas slams rival
Visitors thronging the various booths during a National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) Travel Fair held at the Singapore Expo.

The trade body representing travel agents has hit out at a breakaway group of agencies for tarnishing its reputation and spreading "untruths" about the association.

The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) also defended its decision not to release full details of the costs of organising a trade fair, saying it had its reasons.

However, Natas president Devinder Ohri also held out an olive branch, stating that he continued to hope both groups can resolve their differences.

Speaking to the media about tension between Natas and the breakaway group led by four of the biggest tour agencies here, Mr Ohri said their plan to launch a rival trade fair came as a surprise.

"When the story broke... that was the first time we (knew) they are organising another fair," he said, referring to the plan by Dynasty Travel, SA Tours, CTC Travel and Chan Brothers Travel to boycott the Natas fair and organise their own.

Despite subsequent concessions from Natas, the rival group stuck to its plan to hold its Outbound Travel Fair from March 27 to 29 - the initial dates of the Natas fair - at The Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Natas then told its members it would be bringing forward the dates of its fair at Singapore Expo by three weeks, to the weekend of March 6 to 8.

Yesterday, Mr Ohri said Natas faced pressure from the bigger industry players to push back its travel fairs, usually held in February and early March, because they wanted to hold their own "pre-Natas" fairs.

"We were accommodating. But now we have gone back to the front of the queue to level the playing field for smaller players."

The breakaway group's claim that Natas has not been transparent about how it uses proceeds from the fairs has tarnished Natas' credibility, Mr Ohri said.

"And they now want to go into the business of organising a travel fair. Naturally we would be a little reluctant to share the nitty-gritty details of what percentage we spend on advertising and promotion, what kind of suppliers we use and things like that," he said.

But Mr Ohri held out the hope that both groups would be able to bury the hatchet.

"Our door is always open and we welcome constructive, reasonable and sincere discussions at any time," he said An Outbound Travel Fair spokesman said: "Our position has always been clear and we do not wish to comment further."

This article was first published on Dec 10, 2014.
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