The Business Times

Natas urges 'breakaway group' to make peace

Published Tue, Dec 9, 2014 · 07:23 AM

THE National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) has urged the 24 travel agencies organising a rival fair to resolve their differences and make peace.

Natas president Devinder Ohri on Tuesday said he still harbours hope of the "breakaway group" re-joining the association, pointing out that doing so "is to the mutual benefit of everyone involved".

He also sought to repudiate "wrongful depictions" made against the association, saying the Outbound Tour Group had "created an untrue image" of Natas.

"I think by saying that we were not transparent and open with our accounts, by saying things like we were not open and transparent with sponsorship, I think it has tarnished somewhat the integrity of the discussion," said Mr Ohri, who added that Natas has so far been very restrained in its comments about the rival group.

He also stressed that the association's members should be careful and cautious in their remarks.

The Natas fair, which is Singapore's biggest, has been held twice a year - in March and August - since 1987.

The 2015 March edition will now be brought forward to the weekend of March 6-8, while organisers of the rival fair - Outbound Travel Fair - will hold theirs from March 27-29, the original dates of the Natas fair.

Mr Ohri explained that having two fairs on the same day would have served no one's interest and inconvenienced all the stakeholders, partners, exhibitors and consumers alike.

The alternative dates are the "most ideal", he said, as they fall just after the 15th day of the Chinese New Year and right before school holidays.

"Booking at the start of the holiday season has many advantages. Inventories, whether they be airline seats, tours to popular destinations, preferred dates of departure, are all wide open, whereas by the end of the month, the chances for consumers to obtain their first choice or preference may be reduced."

And the association appears confident that its two fairs next year will draw an equal number of visitors, if not at least a 10-20 per cent increase.

On Nov 25, established names including Chan Brothers Travel, CTC Travel and Dynasty Travel announced they were pulling out of the March Natas Fair and organising their own.

Their gripe - sliding visitorship to the Natas fairs, lack of transparency surrounding sponsorship and the fair's financial reporting, among other things.

Despite later concessions from Natas, the 24 agencies said they were going ahead with their separate fair.

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