THIS year alone, Madam Betty Yee went to Bangkok, Macau and Ho Chi Minh City for her vacations and she will be travelling to Jiuzhaigou in China in November.
The 59-year-old branch manager at Sing- Post, who usually travels with her family, says: "With airfares going lower than taxi fares, we can travel more frequently than we used to."
Like her, many Singaporeans are travelling overseas for their holidays more often because of the buoyant economy, rising affluence, lower fares and better services offered by the travel agencies and airlines engaged in fierce competition.
Last month, the travel agencies that organised in-house fairs attracted a lot of interest and they enjoyed spectacular sales.
Chan Brothers Travel hit a record-breaking $12 million in sales with over 60,000 visitors at its one-day fair on Aug 5. At Commonwealth Travel Service's travel fairs held over two weekends in August, sales totalled close to $13 million with about 35,000 visitors.
Hot on the heels of the August fairs comes Natas Holidays 2007, which brings together 160 exhibitors, including new participants like Air Bagan, Air Zimbabwe, Asia Global Vacation, the Austrian Embassy and Jakarta City Government Tourism Office.
Mr Robert Khoo, who heads the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas), says: "We look forward to a vibrant Natas Holidays 2007 with exciting performances and new exhibitors. This will be one of the largest and most successful fairs held in Singapore."
Travel agencies are confident that their holiday packages will sell like hot cakes. Mr Lee Cheun Kiat, manager of marketing and public relations at Commonwealth Travel Service, says: "Looking at the strong response we had during our in-house fairs in August, we are confident that Natas Holidays will bring another wave of strong bookings."
As for the destinations which Singaporeans make a beeline for, three names pop up as the top vacation spots - Europe, Japan and Australia. Ms Ruth Lim, marketing and communications manager at SA Tours, explains: "Europe is a lure due to its rich heritage, culture and history as well as the beautiful architecture. Japan, Korea and Hong Kong are popular because of the good exchange rates. As for Australia, its physical proximity is the main reason why Singaporeans flock there."
But travel agencies have noticed a rising demand for exotic destinations in the Mediterranean such as Turkey, Egypt and Greece, and Indochina countries such as Cambodia,Vietnam and Myanmar. Ms Jane Chang, marketing communications executive at Chan Brothers Travel, says: "We are seeing a surge in the number of customers who opt to spend more time to explore and savour one destination. They are also willing to spend to travel in style."
Ms Eileen Oh, senior manager of marketing communications at ASA Holidays, adds: "Singaporeans now travel to meet dedicated pursuits. Our special interest tours, such as the Fengshui tour to Beijing and the Trail of Oshin tour have been well received."
Natas Holidays 2007
Dates: Fri to Sun
Venue: Singapore Expo, Halls 4B and 5
Admission: $3 for adults, free admission for children below 12
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Karon Ng gives a glimpse of the interesting trips and special bargains at Natas Holidays 2007
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