All's fair and sunny on travel front: Agencies

Despite the bleak economic outlook, travel agencies are optimistic that Singaporeans will continue to snap up holiday packages at two upcoming travel fairs.

The third Travel Revolution fair, organised by the Singapore Outbound Travel Agents Association (Sotaa), will be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre from Feb 26 to 28.

Admission to the fair will be free. The 65 exhibitors include 33 travel agencies, and there will be lucky draws and food vendors.

The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) Travel Fair will take place at Singapore Expo Hall 7 from March 4 to 6. It will have 291 booths and 53 exhibitors, of which 24 are travel agencies. Admission will also be free.

Natas waived the $4 entrance fee for both its fairs last year, the first time since 1988, to mark SG50.

"A majority of the exhibitors have chosen to waive the entrance fee for one more fair," Natas executive director Steven Lek said, when asked if the free entry was due to competition from the rival fair.

Sotaa was formed last May by 25 agencies that pulled out of Natas' twice-yearly fairs to organise their own fair, Travel Revolution, which drew 76,000 visitors in April. Members of the breakaway group include major agencies Chan Brothers Travel, CTC Travel and Dynasty Travel. They cited issues such as admission charges for the public and unsatisfactory publicity.

Natas is targeting 60,000 visitors this time. Its March travel fair last year attracted 55,000.

Besides an international food and wine fair, nurses from Tan Tock Seng Hospital will also provide advice on travel-related vaccinations and health matters, such as how to protect against the Zika virus, at this year's fair.

But even with such added health worries, agencies believe there is plenty to be positive about.

The strong Singapore dollar may entice more to go overseas. Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, South Korea, Europe and Australia have all seen their currencies depreciate against the Singdollar.

Dusseldorf in Germany, Canberra in Australia and Wellington in New Zealand are expected to gain in popularity among Singaporeans, with Singapore Airlines launching new routes to these destinations later this year.

Dynasty Travel's director of marketing communications Alicia Seah said the company has not seen a slowdown in bookings.

A sharp fall in oil prices in recent months and a price war among major airlines have also reduced average airfares by 25 per cent to 35 per cent compared to a year ago, she said. Also, carriers such as Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Cathay Pacific have either waived or reduced their fuel surcharges.

Hong Thai Travel's senior advertising and marketing manager Stella Chow said its higher-end products, such as packages to Japan and Europe, are still selling well.

Retired insurance broker consultant Freddie Lim, 61, who bought a package to Switzerland at the last Natas fair, said he will visit Travel Revolution, with an eye on a tour package to Australia.

He said: "They have more established agencies like Chan Brothers. I hope they will come up with more innovative packages that let me explore the country at a relaxing pace."

This article was first published on Feb 14, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.