NATAS show attracts travel shoppers

SINGAPORE, 7 August 2019: Singaporean toured the biannual NATAS* Travel Show at the weekend searching for travel bargains.

Billed the largest travel fair in Singapore and hosted twice a year in February and August, the show attracted around 100,000 travel consumers.

Most of them were browsing for bargains or entering draws to win prizes the top being two roundtrip business class fares on Singapore Airlines to London.

Hosted in Singapore’s Expo Halls five and six the show claimed to have more than 900 booths selling just about anything that could remotely be linked to a travel experience.

Core exhibitors, estimated at around 100, came from tourism boards representing destinations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, airlines, resorts and outbound travel agents, the latter competing for business head-on with knock-down prices.

The August NATAS show opened against the backdrop of slowing travel demand at least for package tours. The predominant trend indicates Singaporeans are now booking their flights, hotels including Airbnb directly online. It leaves travel agents struggling to maintain market share and resorting to heavy discounting at every opportunity.

Prizes and freebies were the main draws for consumers who ventured to the massive exhibition hall just three kilometres short of Changi airport. They browsed for bargains, picking up the giveaways. For every SGD500 spent, they gained a chance to win the big draw. Winners will be announced this week by NATAS on its Facebook page and website.

For those who stopped short of spending SGD500 they could still stand a chance to win Samsonite luggage items and even pocket Wi-Fi gadgets and vouchers.

But for most of the visitors, it was not about snatching up last-minute deals to fly off for a family holiday. They were there to plan and check out options and more than likely they would return home to book online for the September to October holiday season.

Destinations flagged as hot included Poland, Russia, Taiwan and Japan while trips to Antarctica were showing up on some travel agency counters.

Poland, designated the signature destination by NATAS, was represented by the tourism board and Lot Airlines. The airline promoted free stopover holidays in Warsaw its home base and threw in a draw to win tickets to Europe.

You could be forgiven for thinking cutthroat tactics are now the order of the day at this travel show. Travel agencies fielded some unbelievable bargains, and it became evident battle lines had been drawn across the travel show aisles.

Chan Brothers delivered a possible knockout blow offering 1000 show-goers free travel to Europe, Australia, Turkey, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Bali, China, Africa, Mideast or South Asia.

It called the offer incredible, which it was for some lucky punters. Others possibly struggled with the idea that 1,000 free holidays were stashed away under the counter?

WTS Travel & Tours had a different approach. It offered a SGD1,000 discount on travel packages sold at the show.

The deal for a couple slashed SGD1,000 off a two-night Dream Cruise package. It netted at SGD300 per person.

Then there were 40% discounts off Club Med packages and two nights free in Dubai if the traveller bought a tour package to Europe.

But out of all the products displayed it was probably the cruises that caught the eye of show-goers. A SGD4,900 cruise to Alaska attracted the attention of experienced travel shoppers. Now that was different, but so were the expedition holidays to Antarctica.

Royal Caribbean Cruises celebrating its 50th anniversary, sold 50% discounts on all of its cruises, but only for purchases completed at the show.

But despite the pressure to buy the message that came through the clutter and chatter indicated show-goers were window shopping, browsing and taking notes. In the end, it is more than likely the online travel agencies, not those present at the show that would reap the benefit over the next few months.

NATAS spends considerable effort in attracting destination management organisations and national tourist offices to buy booth space. This time around it partnered with Poland, Maldives and Ukraine, but the old regulars such as Thailand had a pavilion although it lacked enthusiastic travel shoppers. Could we say it was unusually quiet?

As part of its 47th Korea Tourism Photo Contest, Korea Tourism Organisation’s office in Singapore hosted a contest to find the best smartphone photos portraying Korea.

The contest opened at the NATAS show 2 August and closes for submissions in Singapore 16 August. Winners will be notified 9 September.

As for the Grand Draw, the lucky winner who can fly business class to London will be named 8 August on NATAS Travel Fair website.

(*National Association of Travel Agents Singapore.)