Travel

NATAS Travel Fair: Is it Still Worth Going?

natas travel fair singapore

Peter Lin

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For many years, it was the world’s biggest gangbang NOT starring Annabel Chong. NATAS was essentially screwing both consumers and exhibitors of their travel fairs with rising admission fees, rental costs and poor event publicity. This year, exhibitors decided enough was finally enough and are organising their own travel fair in March next year.

On the same weekend as the NATAS fair.

Dear NATAS, our middle fingers are extended for no particular reason at all. The fact that they are in your face is purely coincidental. Please do not be offended. Love, the Big Four.

“The Big Four” are Singapore’s top travel agencies – CTC Travel, Dynasty Travel, Chan Brothers Travel and SA Tours. They’re bringing with them twenty other travel agencies including MISA Travel, Apple Holidays, Nam Ho Travel and Farmosa Holidays.

 

Why did the Big Four pull out of the NATAS fair?

Honestly, no one can say that this wasn’t a long time coming. For years, exhibitors were complaining about the increasing booth costs and the fact that consumers were being charged an entry fee. If these were increased to cover the operating costs of the fair, it should be justified. Yet, there didn’t seem to be any transparency to how the proceeds were used.

Since 1988, consumers have been charged to enter the NATAS fair. It started at $2, was raised to $3, and since 2010 has gone up to $4. Naturally, the higher admission fee resulted in a lower attendance for the travel fair. Less people at your booth naturally mean less sales. Unfortunately, no one at NATAS seems to have done anything to stem the drop in attendance.

While the admission fee was definitely a factor, there were other contributing factors. Online travel booking sites like airbnb.com, Expedia and ZUJI began to offer much cheaper fares. Booking online also made it much more convenient for consumers who didn’t want to endure the NATAS fair crowds.

 

Did NATAS resolve these wrongs?

Apparently, exhibitors have been speaking up since 2010. Their latest attempt at some solution was a petition detailing all these concerns sent back in October. Again and again, there was no constructive response from NATAS. Clearly NATAS, believing they had the support of the majority of their 340 members, did nothing about the complaints.

The Big Four therefore arranged the boycott and announced they were organising their own fair.

NATAS SHIT THEIR PANTS.

A day after the rival travel fair was announced at a press conference, NATAS held their own press conference. They were waiving the admission fee, they proclaimed, to celebrate Singapore’s 50th year of independence.

YEAH RIGHT. That’s like Chris Algieri saying he had planned to walk into Manny Pacquiao’s fists.

 

What is the consumer impact?

Now we potentially have two travel fairs to look forward to in the last weekend of March. The NATAS fair will still continue to be held at the Expo, though.

Do you know how freaking hard it is to get to the Expo? You don’t want to drive, just in case you don’t find a parking space. Plus, parking could cost over $6 for 3 hours. Taxi fares cost $2 more when leaving from the Expo. To get there via MRT, you need to change trains at Tanah Merah.

Seriously, unless you live in Bedok or Simei, or are used to go all the way there for church services, it’s just not worth travelling to the Expo just to get trapped in a human jam. Especially now that admission is free.

The rival fair is going to be held at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre. That’s genius. It’s right in the middle of town. It can handle an insane amount of human traffic. Just ask New Creation Church, which holds services at their ballrooms.

 

And that’s the bottom line…

NATAS has claimed to have resolved “80 to 90 percent” of the problems raised by The Big Four. If that’s true, there’s a pretty high possibility that there will be only one travel fair come March 2015. One of the Big Four, Chan Brothers Travel had already admitted that they weren’t really keen on spending the extra effort to organise the travel fair.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether Singaporeans get one or two travel fairs in March next year. You can be sure that the travel agencies will be taking advantage of the lack of an admission fee to attract as many customers as possible. Credit card companies will also be bending over backwards to grab as much of the market share as they can.

The main people who will benefit from all this is us.

What are your thoughts on the NATAS fair? Share your experiences with us!

Image Credits:
Tourism Authority of Thailand

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Peter Lin

I am the poster boy for reinventing one's self. I've been a broadcast journalist, technical writer, banking customer service officer and a Catholic friar. My life experiences have made me the most cynical idealist you'll ever meet, which is why I'm also the co-founder of a local pop culture website. I believe ignorance is not bliss, and that money is the root of all evil only if you allow it to be.