Friday, February 27, 2009

A clear example of kiasuism

EVEN before the doors were open at noon on Friday, the queues getting into the Natas travel fair had snaked the length of four halls in Singapore Expo, extending all the way to the exit of the MRT station.

There were initial fears that the recession would keep Singaporeans home. But judging by the crowd size, this was clearly unfounded. Most consumers said they were there to check out bargains they could get.

Mr Robert Khoo, the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore's chief executive officer, said he expects some 50,000 to turn up for the three-day fair, spending some $50 million in tour packages. Sales is expected to remain on par with last year's show during the same period.

To help its members weather the difficult times ahead, Natas has set up a hardship fund to help employees of member agents who earn less than $2,000 a month. The fund, which stands at $50,000 now, has given out about 30 per cent of the money to 105 applicants to help them pay for household utilities bills, children's school fees, HDB service and conservancy charges.

Guest of honour at the fair, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishan also told the industry at the opening ceremony that the Government is fully committed to helping the travel industry and travel agents ride out the difficult times.

He said the Government has put in place many schemes that companies can tap on to help pay staff wages and training bills. The travel industry employs some 8,000 people.

The Natas travel fair takes place twice a year - in February/March and August/September.

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