Lower turnout at Natas Holidays fair

The growing trend of booking overseas holidays online and other earlier promotional fairs have led to a poorer turnout at the Natas Holidays travel fair.

This year's three-day event at the Singapore Expo last month saw a total of 56,189 visitors, about 10 per cent less than the 62,744 at the August fair last year. Sales for several participating agencies this year had also fallen by around 10 to 20 per cent.

Said a spokesman for Nam Ho Travel: "One of the biggest possibilities is that more and more people are purchasing air tickets and making hotel bookings online. They go directly to the airlines and hotels instead of coming to us."

Other promotional fairs held by travel agencies for their regular customers just before the Natas event could also be a factor.

Said a Natas spokesman: "(These earlier fairs) alleviated some of the pent-up travel demand among Singaporeans, particularly among the various agencies' regular customers."

On travel preferences, Europe continued to be a top destination at the Natas fair by "a large margin", said Ms Patricia Auyeong, acting chief executive of Natas. There was also interest in lesser-travelled places such as Croatia and Romania.

For Chan Brothers and EU Holidays, for example, demand for long-haul destinations in Europe remained strong. Their overall sales went up by between 8 and 10 per cent, respectively.

Some agencies, however, say that people are avoiding travelling to faraway places such as Europe, partly due to the plane crashes this year, in particular the MH17 tragedy. The Malaysia Airlines flight crashed in Ukraine on July 17 while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The plane was believed to have been shot down by a missile.

The deadly Ebola epidemic originating from West Africa could also be another reason why long-haul flights are avoided.

"People are staying within the region because of such incidents," said Ms Eva Wu, 27, marketing manager for SA Tours.

For ASA Holidays, bookings for travel in the region rose by 20 per cent during the August fair this year, compared with last year. Some of its chartered flights to Taiwan and Korea for travel in November and December are already 90 per cent booked.

Another sector that saw a "strong performance" was cruise holidays, said Ms Auyeong. For Dynasty Travel, bookings for cruises rose twofold compared with last year, said director of marketing communications Alicia Seah.


This article was first published on September 6, 2014.
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