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NATAS’ rival travel fair at MBS to have over 50 brands

SINGAPORE — A travel fair, organised by travel agencies boycotting the popular March fair organised by the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS), will showcase more than 50 travel brands, including airlines and cruises.

The NATAS fair rival will include the ‘Big Four’ travel agencies that have spearheaded the boycott. TODAY file photo

The NATAS fair rival will include the ‘Big Four’ travel agencies that have spearheaded the boycott. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — A travel fair, organised by travel agencies boycotting the popular March fair organised by the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS), will showcase more than 50 travel brands, including airlines and cruises.

The March 27 to 29 “Travel Revolution 2015”, which will be held at Marina Bay Sands, is targeted at those planning for the June holidays, organisers said.

Fair participants include the “Big Four” travel agencies that have spearheaded the boycott: SA Tours, Chan Brothers Travel, Dynasty Travel and CTC Travel. International tourism organisations from countries such as Thailand, Japan and South Korea are participating as well, along with nine major banks, including DBS, OCBC, UOB and Standard Chartered.

Dynasty Travel director of marketing and communications Alicia Seah said the organisers have a consolidated advertising budget of S$1 million that will be used to publicise the fair.

Industry sources say the budget is about four times the average amount that NATAS spent for its travel fairs in 2013.

Last November, 24 travel agencies accused the association of a lack of transparency in the expenditure of proceeds from its twice-yearly fairs and announced they would start their own travel fair on the same dates as the NATAS event.

The agencies were also unhappy with the high rentals and entrance fees that NATAS charged for its fairs.

Discussions between the two sides failed to make headway, even after NATAS said it would waive entrance fees for this year’s fair. NATAS then decided to move forward the dates for its fair, which will be held at the Singapore Expo, to March 6 to 8.

Since then, the association has been engaging the breakaway agencies individually.

“We are still hopeful that we can come together as one big family. Since Day One, we have always been open to discussion. The doors are always open,” said NATAS spokesperson Gregory Tan.

When asked why Travel Revolution members had not continued discussions at the height of the dispute, Ms Seah said they were dissatisfied by the lack of commitment NATAS had shown in addressing their grievances.

Calling attempts such as lowering rental fees and allowing free entrance “reactionary moves” that did not indicate any long-term change, she said the group had hoped for more permanent changes.

The group then decided to start working on Travel Revolution 2015. Since then, “there was no turning back”, Ms Seah said.

Travel Revolution members, however, are confident that talks will resume once both travel fairs are over. “We are hopeful and look forward to an industry dialogue with NATAS after both fairs are over,” she added.

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