Natas holds out olive branch to breakaway group

Natas holds out olive branch to breakaway group

The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) is willing to make peace and work out differences with a group of breakaway travel agencies that is boycotting the Natas travel fair in March to hold its own fair.

But if things reach a point in which the reputation of Natas is further tarnished, it does not rule out taking action against these agencies, the association said at a media conference yesterday.

On Nov 25, several heavyweights in the travel industry - including SA Tours, CTC Travel and Chan Brothers Travel - announced their decision to boycott the Natas fair in March over various issues.

According to the breakaway group, these issues included poor marketing efforts, a lack of transparency surrounding the fair's financial reporting and the general admission fees for the public, which has since been waived for next year's fair.

But Natas president Devinder Ohri said at a media conference yesterday that these claims have "tarnished the integrity of Natas", adding that they were not true.

Even so, he said about 80 per cent of these issues have been resolved and urged the breakaway agencies to make peace, adding that Natas' doors were still open to any of the breakaway agencies that may want to realign with Natas.

But Mr Ohri warned that "beyond a certain limit, if our credibility is going to be (further) tarnished, then I have a responsibility to the remainder of the members, and will then proceed accordingly", without elaborating what these actions would be.

Natas' next travel fair is set to take place from March 6 to 8 at the Singapore Expo, three weeks earlier than initially planned. The rival fair by the breakaway agencies is happening between March 27 and 29, and is called the Outbound Travel Fair. These are the original dates of the Natas fair.

The upcoming fair by Natas will feature a revamped concept, which will help with retaining attendance. But Mr Ohri declined to reveal details for competitive reasons.

A spokesman for the Outbound Travel Fair previously told The Business Times that resolving the issues with Natas is "still far from the 80 per cent that Natas has cited".

"That said, we will work towards sincere reconciliation of differences, although the stakes do get higher as significant resources have been expended in organising (our) fair," she said.

In response to the latest comments by Natas yesterday, Eva Wu, an Outbound Travel Fair spokesman, said that "our position has always been clear and we do not wish to comment further".

"We are currently looking forward to our Outbound Travel Fair next March and we will do our best to give consumers the best value and experience. We are currently completely committed to focusing on the success of (the fair) for the benefit of both exhibitors and consumers," said Ms Wu, who is also a marketing and communications manager at SA Tours.

Despite the ongoing tension between the two travel groups, consumers like Parveen Kaur are not fazed.

"I will go for whichever fair suits my schedule, and see which travel agency can offer me a better deal," said the 25-year-old team secretary.

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