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NATAS postpones travel fair amid concerns that coronavirus outbreak will dampen turnout

SINGAPORE: The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) has postponed a travel fair originally scheduled for this month, amid concerns that the ongoing outbreak of a new coronavirus from Wuhan will affect turnout.

The NATAS Travel 2020 fair, which was set to be held at the Singapore Expo from Feb 21 to 23, has now been pushed back to May 1 to 3.

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This as participating exhibitors have been concerned about the expected turnout for the fair, said NATAS President Steven Ler in a statement.

There are, however, some requests for NATAS to consider organising a “smaller fair” in February. Mr Ler said NATAS will “gauge the interest level” and decide on the viability of that.

NATAS organises two massive travel fairs a year; one in February or March and the second in August or September. Its fairs have typically attracted more than 110,000 visitors a year, according to its website.

About 90 exhibitors, ranging from travel agencies, airlines and hotels, were supposed to be part of the travel fair this month.

One of them is Dynasty Travel, which agreed that the fair should be postponed.

“At this juncture of the virus crisis, it is certainly not timely to stage a travel event,” said its director of public relations and communications Alicia Seah, citing potentially slow travel demand and concerns about staging mass public events now.

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In light of the uncertainties ahead, industry players like Dynasty Travel have begun cutting back on advertising spending. The pushback of the NATAS travel fair will also help to save unnecessary expenses on set-up, advertising and manpower, she added.

Having the event in May will make more sense, Ms Seah told CNA.

“We are hopeful that the situation will stabilise by then and travellers are ready to make travel bookings for the second half of 2020.”

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Speaking at a multi-agency press conference last week, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing had warned that the virus outbreak will affect Singapore’s economy, with tourism-related sectors being of “immediate concern”.

Economists have said that the repercussions on tourism could start showing as soon as next month and cautioned that if the outbreak is prolonged, it could chill travel demand worldwide and bring back negative impact such as that seen during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.

Already, some tourism-related businesses are feeling the heat. To help those affected, targeted measures, such as waiving licence fees for hotels, travel agents and tour guides, have also been announced on Sunday. More will be announced in the Budget on Feb 18.

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Source: CNA/ic


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