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Travel & Holiday

Holiday bug bites

Sales at weekend travel fairs surpass expectations
The Straits Times - February 13, 2012
By: Huang Lijie
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Holiday bug bites -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

DEMAND for overseas travel hit fever pitch at Suntec City over the weekend.

More than seven major tour agencies held individual travel fairs, their first for the year, and drew crowds of holidaymakers, drumming up millions of dollars in sales.

Competition was stiff among travel agencies that set up shop there, yet many of them posted an increase in sales of between 10 per cent and 35 per cent compared with the same period last year, due to more bookings and travellers opting for bigger ticket tours. The bulk of the bookings are for travel until June.

The strong sales surpassed the expectations of travel agents, who had been anticipating more conservative holiday spending due to forecasts of slower economic growth.

Deep discounts of up to 50 per cent on tours, attractive offers such as one-for-one flight deals and the low exchange rate of the Singapore dollar to the euro fuelled demand for tours to the top-selling destinations of Europe, South Korea and China.

Japan also ranked among the best-selling destinations at the fairs, although the number of Singaporean travellers to the country plunged by 38.5 per cent last year compared with 2010, following the March 11 quake disaster.

Consumers' eager appetite for holidays, even before one of the largest fairs is held by the National Association of Travel Agents (Natas) at the end of this month, paints a rosy picture for the year ahead, said agents and industry analysts.

Chan Brothers Travel's one-day fair yesterday chalked up more than $10 million in sales, 10 per cent higher than at the same fair last year.

Ms Iris Kok, assistant manager of marketing and communications for Dynasty Travel, which held a fair over the weekend, said it exceeded its $1.6 million sales target for the weekend on the first day.

Its bestsellers include tours to Turkey and Europe, ranging from $1,800 to $3,400 per passenger. It also received a few bookings for a $17,888 tour to South America for 23 days.

Ms Kok said: 'We weren't expecting consumers to be so open to spending on travel after they spent so much during Chinese New Year, which just passed.'

At ASA Holidays, bookings to Japan, which ranked third behind Europe and the United States, jumped by 15 per cent compared with the same time last year prior to the quake disaster.

Ms Eileen Oh, head of marketing and communications for ASA Holidays, said: 'We are very happy to see Japan making a strong comeback this time. There is strong demand from those who may have missed Japan's cherry blossom season last year after the March 11 disaster.'

Cabby Tan Cheng Teck, 49, who yesterday booked a seven-day tour to Hokkaido in June with CTC Travel, said: 'Tour fares to Japan are much cheaper now and I saved more than $1,000 on my trip.'

However, holidaymakers who missed out on the action over the weekend do not need to worry about losing out on good deals.

Ms Jane Chang, marketing communications manager at Chan Brothers Travel, said it would be rolling out new offers at the upcoming Natas fair at the Singapore Expo.

Mr Robert Khoo, chief executive of Natas, said he was pleased to hear that the travel shows preceding its fair did well.

This is because they are usually indicators of how the event will perform. Natas's February fair last year posted a record high of $90 million in sales.

He added: 'Although business travel may dip due to the uncertain global economy, our past experience tells us that leisure travel will likely continue to stay strong.

'Businessmen who have no time to travel with their families in the boom years do so when the year is quiet.'



Dickens' London