It was hard to tell which group of attendees was more excited for the long-anticipated return of NATAS Travel Fair on its opening day on Friday, 12 August — the throng of consumers or the travel players spread out over 40 exhibitors’ booths. The event floor was abuzz with consumers hunting for the best travel deals, and exhibitors enthusiastically greeting them face-to-face once again.
The opening ceremony kicked off with a bang, featuring a rambunctious lion dance troupe, a Japanese musical (hibikiya) performance and a traditional Japanese dance originating from the Kochi Prefecture.
“This is probably the biggest crowd we have seen since a long time, among us are fellow colleagues, friends in the industry, embassies, and national tourism boards,” said Steven Ler, president of NATAS. “Clearly the last two years have been challenging, but the association has continued to push ahead, working with the government and STB [Singapore Tourism Board] in terms of helping our agents through this challenging period of time.”
Consumers started lining up outside the doors before the fair was officially opened on Friday, 12 August. Photo Credit: Cheryl Teo
With Singapore’s biggest travel fair now back on the map, Ler believes that this truly represents “the long-awaited phase where travel is resuming,” and “we expect the surge of holidaymakers to gain momentum as we go through the rest of the year into 2023.”
As Ler was delivering his welcome address, his message of optimism was further underscored by the line of consumers queuing outside the doors, waiting to be let into the travel fair before it officially opened.
Alvin Tan, minister of state and the minister of trade and industry, echoed Ler’s sentiments, saying: “Now we’re travelling into the future, a new dawn is upon us. We’ve anticipated, and are not experiencing this pent-up demand for travel being unleashed.”
“The pandemic has fundamentally changed how we travel,” continued Tan. “The travel agents have helped and are helping travellers navigate very difficult border policies and health protocols. You are the ones — the travel agents and consultants — best equipped, best trained to provide expertise, assurance and support to travellers.”
Steven Ler [left] and Alvin Tan [right] officiating NATAS Fair 2022. Photo Credit: Cheryl Teo
Addressing the crowd of travel partners present, Tan concluded on a note of gratitude: “Thank you for journeying with us through the pandemic, and on behalf of the government, I commit to you that we will continue to journey and partner with you to help you to get past all of the different crisis, and also to put you in the best state to overcome any future crisis, and now, when travel resumes, to help you to soar, to fly, to adventure and to overcome new heights.”
Smiles abounded among the exhibitors such as Chan Brothers, Cruise Connexions, EU Holidays, Nam Ho Travel, WTS Travel, as consumers filed in by the droves, filling up the booths and quickly converting to customers within the span of minutes. Travellers were also seen gathering information and travel brochures for inspiration at regional NTOs’ booths from Japan, South Korea, Sarawak, Taiwan, Thailand and the Maldives.
“Judging by the crowd that turned out today, especially on a Friday morning, we believe that the turn out will be even more impressive over the weekends,” Ler said cheerfully.