Its the time of the year when the battle for the Singapore tourist dollar begins in earnest. Starting out free entry many years back, the traditional trade fair organized by NATAS of yesteryear became a paid for entry event. Now the new kid on the block has shaken the status quo when it comes to travel fairs. For the 2nd year, we now have a travel fair organized by a separate coalition of agencies held at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS).
Our intent for visiting such travel fairs is mainly research in nature, as we normally plan well ahead and do not wait for these once or twice in a year events. Not having children accords us the privilege of traveling as and when we want to, and not as most parents would no doubt be “hampered” by.
And the fair was busy, considering it was a Saturday. And it was still fun to try the lucky draws, get the free instant photos at the various booths etc. Not a bad haul today as we took home stickers, confectionery, cups and a couple of nice tote bags…
The quest for Russia – mission accomplished we believe!
The most important mission today can be considered as accomplished. We managed to book a package tour that had sufficient sign-on participants for departure on 20-May. So the next step is to make the annual leave application and send the passports in for Russian visa application. Fingers crossed, we should be good to go by end of March!
Product option updates for us
We were so engrossed with interacting with travel agents that I forgot to take photos of two lovely lady boys at the Thailand pavilion. And they were well endowed too!!
We found Club Med’s options to be useful for our intended Harbin winter trip. The Yabuli ski resort can be considered for a stop (of 3 days – minimum stay) after the expected whirlwind itinerary around Harbin and the ice festival. But the pricing remains challenging at approximately S$290/night/pp.
Sashaying by the Maldives pavilion, we found a resort that is located 15 minutes’ speed boat ride from the capital Male. They were offering the 2nd person free for every first paying guest (note this is the land offer only, flights own arrangement). Bundled in was a complimentary fishing trip and an introductory dive lesson. Prices are quite reasonable given our own experience and research. And judging from the comments at Tripadvisor, probably a good bet for an excellent introductory first touch of the islands.
Within the cruise sector, we found the Peace boat. As an NGO, the voyages are usually around 3 months with between 17-26 port of calls. They have an event planned on 22-April where you can register to visit the ship berthed at the Singapore cruise centre.
We got to speak with a Taiwanese lady at one of the booths, who helped us to know more about how to book Palau packages from Taiwanese travel companies. We found out that there could be surcharges for foreigners booking with Taiwanese travel agencies. We now have a shortlist of reputable agents to engage with.
As usual, Suan had a field day looking at all the brochures for Japan. The Japan pavilion had been a vital source of information for Suan’s own itinerary building. The booth pro-offers nuggets of information that would otherwise be harder to mine from the websites. Appears the next project for Japan will be a foray into the north coast using Kyoto as a base. Perhaps this can be part of a “bleisure” trip in 2017.
In the package tour arena, we chanced upon a new Europe focused travel company with quite a few really interesting itineraries for us – specifically the viewing of the aurora borealis. There are three itinerary routes, two of which utilizes the Hurtigruten cruise. This may save us the effort of trying to book direct with the cruise line and arranging the flights, transfers etc.
There seem to be more offers of in-depth/focused European itinerary products. Folks these days are so lucky. Ten years ago, it would have been run-of-the-mill packages that attempt to bring you to see a melange of sites across many European countries. With these pin-pointed itineraries, it is now possible to gain intimacy with the destinations as the touch time is lengthened.
While it is all good to see how there has been progress on European-focused destinations, we have found that there remains gaps for South/central America and Africa. At this stage, it appears that products remain mired in the standard “do-it-all” in a very short time kind of products. It remains a challenge for anyone trying to establish a real credible handprint in these two continents from here. There was no country pavilions from these two regions at this fair. Perhaps we can find them at the NATAS one in March (as they had come occasionally in the past).
Fair ends tomorrow. We achieved what we set out to do.