“With consumers becoming more and more travel savvy, demand for travel has significantly increased in tandem. NATAS is also constantly in the process of exploring new business opportunities with our members so as to cater to this demand.” boasts Robert Khoo, ex-CEO of NATAS circa 2010. Mr. Khoo’s statement, although still true and arguably stronger today, the viability of NATAS as a marketing channel is becoming questionable as consumers are using online sources to find their next trip. Since 2011 the total number of visits to the NATAS Travel Fair has been decreasing and disappointing many travel agencies.
NATAS’ annual February Travel Fair, has seen 15% drop in visits since 2012. In fact, February numbers indicate that the importance of the fair is starting wane for consumers who are starting to move to other sources of packages.
The most recent NATAS fair organized in August 2013 drew 62,744 visitors, a drop of nearly 5 per cent from the 65,822 in the previous year. Bookings slipped more than 9% to an estimated $98 million, from the previous year’s $108 million. Yet, NATAS is still very positive and actively promoting its “NATAS Accreditation” framework.
In order to take advantage of the once vibrant foot traffic that NATAS promised, many travel agencies would rely solely on the NATAS Travel Fair to get their deals to the public. However, the over reliance on NATAS Travel Fair channel to get these sales has pigeonholed many travel agencies’ business expansion as consumers are moving quickly to online sources to make their travel purchases.
Scornful quotes started to appear to doubt NATAS’ long term value. Here is one, quoted from an online blogger.
“Actually I do not need the aforementioned statistics to tell me that the Natas Travel Fair Sales are not good. Just from the name of this year’s travel sales alone “I still Love Natas”, I think the name seems to suggest a lack in confidence on the part of the organizers which may translate into similar sentiments among the customers of the fair.”