Taking part in a three-day travel fair organised by the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) can set a large travel agency back by as much as $100,000.
The high costs, which include rental and set-up, are the key reason why four of the biggest travel agencies here are boycotting next March's mega fair and organising their own on the same dates.
SA Tours, Chan Brothers Travel, Dynasty Travel and CTC Travel are planning to hold a fair at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) on the weekend of March 27 to 29. Admission will be free.
They told The Straits Times that more information will be shared at a press conference at MBS next Tuesday.
It is understood that at the Natas fairs, large agencies typically rent a 400 sq m space - about the size of four five-room housing board flats.
Rental alone costs almost $60,000. Sources say the cost of taking part in the new fair will "definitely be lower".
Natas, which has been organising the trade shows since 1987, said that it does not want to speculate on who will or will not be participating in its March fair, as it has just opened for bookings.
"Natas is a self-funded entity and surplus or proceeds of the travel fairs, if any, are used to fund our activities and initiatives for our general membership," a spokesman said.
The association has been in discussion with its members on ways to make the fairs more appealing. "We will continue to strive to cater to the needs of all our members and treat them equally," he added.
In 2010, admission fee for the fairs rose by a dollar to $4. However, visitor numbers have been declining.
The Natas Holidays travel fair in August this year attracted a total of 56,189 visitors, 10 per cent down on last year.
Held at Singapore Expo, it featured 165 exhibitors, including airlines, hotels, national tourism organisations and more than 50 travel agencies. Sales for several participating agencies reportedly fell by around 10 to 20 per cent.
Other travel agencies, such as Nam Ho Travel, have been approached and "sounded out" about joining the rival fair.
Its director Marshall Ooi said he has not decided if it will do so, but said it is logical for agencies to find ways to cut costs as more customers turn to websites to book their holidays.
"Consumer behaviour has changed dramatically in the past two years, faster than businesses can evolve," he said.
"Agencies need to run a business and stay profitable. If they can do it at a cheaper cost, why shouldn't they?"
This article was first published on Nov 21, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.