NATAS Travel 2016 was held March 4 – 6, 2016 at the Singapore EXPO Hall 7. Admission was free to the three-day Fair where the Guest-of-Honour for the Opening Ceremony was His Excellency, Mr Miguel Angel Navarro Portera, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to the Republic of Singapore. The 48th edition of NATAS travel fairs offered visitors a wide selection of travel choices and special promotions. Beyond customised packages and cruises, visitors had the opportunity to win attractive prizes, sample international cuisine, and even learn how to take holiday pictures like a professional.Mr Devinder Ohri, President of NATAS (pictured above) in his Welcome Address stated: “The NATAS Fairs have come a long way since our humble beginnings in 1979. Today, we mark our 48th Fair to date, which means that by this time next year, we would be holding our Golden Jubilee Travel Fair – that would be a remarkable milestone for us. All of this would have been impossible to even think about, if not for the support of all our local and international industry partners.
According to The Global Travel Intentions Study 2015, Singaporeans plan to embark on more leisure trips in the next two years – four trips per year, compared to three per year for other Asia Pacific travellers, and two per year for travellers worldwide. Wealthier Singaporeans plan to travel even more, with six leisure and eight business trips in the same period.Travel has already become an indispensable part of the lifestyle of most Singaporeans, despite their hectic work schedule. This bodes well for our industry in general. To cater to this seemingly insatiable appetite for travel that Singaporeans have, NATAS Travel 2016 has assembled close to 60 exhibitors comprising travel agents and tour operators, airlines and cruise lines, hotels and resorts, national tourism organisations, food vendors serving up an array of international cuisines and wines, and our very own training school called the Tourism Management Institute of Singapore, all under one roof, which is this Exhibition Hall.
Just to give you the sheer scale of this Event, the 60 exhibitors comprise the equivalent of 297 booths. With this number of booths, there is bound to be something to see, learn, experience and enjoy, for every visitor.
When NATAS plans a Travel Fair, we analyse the evolving travel trends in terms of what travellers currently like or dislike, when they plan a holiday or when they are likely to make their overseas trip. Hence the dates we’ve picked for this Fair – just after the end of the Chinese Lunar New Year and just in time for the March school holidays and yet not too early to book for the longer June School Holidays.Thought is given to what new places Singaporean holiday makers are thinking about going to. By so doing, we are able to provide a Fair that will truly “add value” to the visitors’ travel plans and eventual experience when they make their dream trip.
What are our new offerings for this Fair? First off, I am delighted to announce that for the first time in Singapore, we have the National Tourism Bureau of Kazakhstan; which by the way is the world’s ninth largest country! Kazakhstan is a beautiful country with many natural wonders and is definitely going to be a new destination for Singaporeans.
Happily, for us, this time round we also have the return of Brazil as an exhibitor in the NATAS Fair. We consider this to be timely because Brazil is hosting the next Summer Olympics and prospective visitors from Singapore will be eager to learn more about the country before they go.We have noticed an emerging trend where going on a cruise is now top-of-the-list on the minds of many Singaporeans, young and old. So for this Travel Fair, we have no less than six cruise specialist travel agents, representing five major cruise lines. Yet another developing trend is the growing number of savvy travellers who prefer customised tours with itineraries that are personalised for them and we have NATAS members exhibiting who do just that.
We’re very happy that Tan Tock Seng Hospital has once again come on board as our strategic healthcare partner to provide advice on travel related vaccinations and health matters. This is especially important for those travellers in their senior years and the young. Because of the increasing number of senior and young travellers going on vacations with their families, we have requested TTSH’s healthcare professionals to help educate the travel agency community on essential travel health matters and to help travellers be better prepared for their trips abroad.
For those looking to embark on a second career as a tourist guide or tour leader, our Tourism Management Institute of Singapore or TMIS is here to provide more information on the courses they conduct. It is also an affirmation of our commitment towards adult education and lifelong learning and training.
A successful Travel Fair is the collective effort of many. I would therefore like to express my appreciation firstly to our two major sponsors, MasterCard Worldwide and AIG Asia Pacific Insurance. I would also like to thank (in alphabetical order) Air France-KLM, Cathay Pacific Airways, Etihad Airways, Lao Airlines, Shangri-la Hotels, SilkAir, Singapore Airlines, Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort and Spa, Tijili Hotel Seminyak Bali, Trafalgar and all other sponsors for their generous contribution of prizes and other forms of sponsorship. I hope that our organisations will continue to enjoy the same great cooperation & relationship, in the years ahead.
A special thank you goes to the Tourism Boards of our ASEAN neighbours like Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia who have consistently remained committed to NATAS and have supported us with steadfast loyalty.
I would like to acknowledge the sensational performance by the Flamenco Dancers which was brought to you by courtesy of the Tourism Board of Spain and my deepest appreciation goes to Madam Eva Maria Riesgo Ramos. I would also acknowledge in advance the cultural performances yet to come from Nepal and Indonesia.
Last, but by no means least of course, I would like to express my most sincere thanks and appreciation to our Guest-of-Honour, His Excellency Miguel Angel Navarro, for gracing this event.In his opening address HE Miguel Angel Navarro Portera, (pictured above) the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to the Republic of Singapore stated: “In recent times, tourism has consolidated into one of the major indicators of economic progress. When an average citizen can afford to travel or spend a few nights in a hotel abroad every year, we can say that his or her country is fully developed.
As the number of tourists worldwide continues to expand year after year, the tourism sector will maintain its role as the largest or one of the top contributors to economic growth. In the case of Spain, international tourism has become one of the leading sectors of economic activity and the greatest contributor to our services current account balance.
Today, Spain with its high quality tourist infrastructure and dynamic business community counts among the world leaders as our large hotel companies are successfully shifting their domestic know-how to the main holiday destinations worldwide. Allow me to cite just three figures to illustrate this trend:
2015 was our record year with 68 million tourist arrivals in Spain which makes us the third most visited country in the world
Tourism receipts have amounted to 11% of our GNP with a 3.7% growth from the previous year. Tourists expenditure totalled €67.38 bn, an increase of 6.8% compared to 2014.
Tourism sector has generated one out of seven new jobs thus becoming the first employment source, providing 12% of the total.
Not surprisingly, FITUR, our annual international tourism fair, has become one of our most important events as well, hosting 9,500 companies from 165 countries in its last January edition.What does Spain have to offer to foreign tourists and which was our road to success?
First of all, I would mention a few factors:
Spain is blessed with four different climates offering pleasant temperatures all year around.
Our first class infrastructure has placed Spain as the 3rd hotel market in Europe by online and offline reservations with receipts totalling €12.2 bn (S$18.4bn) in 2015 and seventh in the world by number of 5 star hotels (335). Our high-speed rail network, the largest in Europe with 2,500km in service, connects many tourist destinations and is a rapid and comfortable means of transport which increases the possibility to visit more cities in a single trip.
The specialized and professional services with substantial progress in innovation, technology and sustainability supported by public-private investments incorporating new information and communication technologies to better exploit the opportunities offered by the digital economy.
And, last but not least, gastronomy, friendliness and safety.
These advantages facilitate a wider and more varied tourist supply making Spain the second largest country in the European Union, a difficult destination to discover in a single visit.
Asia with its impressive economic development is becoming an increasingly important source of visitors for Spain. Visitors are more and more attracted to the many features that Spain offers to them to discover and to enjoy. I will refer to four specific areas which fall beyond our traditional “Beach & Sun” packages, that is, our Cultural tourism, Luxury tourism, Shopping tourism and Gastronomic tourism.
Cultural tourism is increasingly popular for Asian visitors. Besides Madrid, with its renowned museums, or Barcelona, with its modernist architectural jewels, Spain offers a large number of cultural routes which allow for the discovering of monument cities, mind-blowing landscapes and many places layered by a heritage from centuries of history. Spain’s numerous natural and cultural routes allow the traveler to discover our rich biological diversity as well as roads built by the Romans more than two thousand years ago – like the Silver Road. Or roads crossed by millions of pilgrims since the Middle Ages – like the many ways of Saint James Road (“El Camino de Santiago”).Catalonia, Madrid and Andalusia are most visited of our 17 Autonomous regions. Each of these territories is known by their distinctiveness in history, architecture, cultural traditions and gastronomy and is gradually being discovered by our visitors attracted by their uniqueness. Not any single of our 50 provinces capital cities are similar and are thus easily recognizable as much in sight as by the taste and singularity of its regional dishes.
Because of its history, tradition, cultural richness and variety, the Spanish cultural heritage is almost equal to none. Spain with 44 UNESCO heritage sites is the 3rd country in the world with the largest number of these heritage sites, after Italy (50) and China (47). Among these 44 sites, 15 are cities, selected by their unique cultural heritage. Some of these cities like Toledo or Cordoba contain elements which take us back to a past where there was great cultural diversity as a result of the legacy of 3 important cultures: Christian, Islamic and Jewish, which lived in harmony for some centuries. Others like Salamanca, with its 3rd oldest university in Europe which will celebrate its 800th anniversary in 2018, or Caceres, with its intra-wall 25 medieval palaces and churches are a living testimony of Spain’s medieval and renaissance past. But all share a common feature - they are all one of its kind in the world.
Luxury tourism is the segment which has grown most both in quantity and quality in Spain. Just in 2015, it increased 53% according to the latest information of luxury travel agencies. Spain offers exclusiveness, originality and outstanding services to high-spending visitors who before were almost limited to choosing traditional destinations such as Paris or London.
Shopping tourism is also part of the traveller’s choices when opting for a holiday or a short tourist visit. Tax-free shopping in Spain has become an increasing temptation for visitors with large shopping areas offering traditional quality products to the most exclusive brands. With an efficient tax return system which secures one of the highest return percentages in the EU, prices in Spain are among the most competitive in the European Union. Tourists are the ideal shoppers, they are rich in terms of time-free and they are in good mood!
Gastronomic tourism is gaining importance rapidly in the past decade as a result of the increasing popularity of Spanish traditional as well as contemporary cuisine. Spanish chefs, acclaimed worldwide for their creativity and innovative culinary techniques, have had an obvious impact on tourism as it matches well with other ingredients of a tourist tour like landscape, culture and history. On the one hand, our traditional regional gastronomy has become an important asset in our tourism offer. The quality and authenticity of our regional products add another pleasant element to be discovered in our territories. Contemporary cuisine, on the other hand, adds an element of refined modernity to be experienced in most of our largest cities.
Spanish gastronomy ranks among the top five in the world. In the Michelin guide, Spain boasts of eight “3 star” restaurants, 20 “2 star” and 146 with “1 star” establishments. In the San Pellegrino “50 Best Restaurants in the World” list, seven restaurants, including the number 1, “El Celler de Can Roca” in Girona are proudly listed.
Gastronomy has thus become an integral and key part of tourist experiences, to which is dedicated an increasing part of local travel expenditure.Most visitors come to Spain moved by their search for leisure, diversity and joy of life to which we are constantly adapting in order to offer the best available quality at the most competitive prices to satisfy their demands. This is part of the secret which has placed Spain among the leaders in world tourism.
Let me end my address with a special mention to Asian tourism in Spain. Asian tourist arrivals in Spain are still a small fraction – just 3% of our tourism but they have registered growth rates of 37% last year and they lead the ranking in spending by a large margin. A new surge is expected in 2016 despite the current economic downturn as it came out in the 4th Asian Tourism International Congress in Barcelona last November. Chinese tourists have increased by 66% to 289,000 visitors. Japan continues to be our main source with 475,000 tourists and the Republic of Korea comes third with 167,000 visitors. Europe continues to be perceived as a safe destination for most Asian visitors despite recent terrorist attacks in France. But they require different services in comparison with most European travelers. The Director of Turespaña, Ms. Marta Blanco, has been developing a strategy of micro segmentation to promote individualized cultural, gastronomic, shopping, congress, and nature tourism offers. Tourespaña presently has offices in China, India, Japan and Singapore. Most of our visitors –over 50% - come from the United Kingdom, France and Germany. If Spain is to continue its privileged position in tourism, it has to find new ways and be able to attract the travellers of the 21st century who basically come from the growing middle class in Asia and Latin America. And to do that we need to adapt to their preferences that lie beyond our “Sun & Beaches” traditional supply and continue improving sustainable infrastructure. The task is huge but so is the 1,138 million tourists reported by the WTO who contributed to 9% of the world’s GNP in 2015 and which are estimated to grow by 3.7% this year.
Before I end, I would like to wish all participants and stakeholders of NATAS Travel Fair every success, not just for this year but for many more years to come.
For more information, please visit NATAS’ website at www.natas.travel or its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NATAS.official.