Hotels and attractions in Singapore are looking forward to welcoming foreign guests following the relaunch of a long-awaited air travel bubble with Hong Kong. But some industry players think the impact will likely to be a “more qualitative” one, instead of a big boost to visitor numbers, with the air travel bubble set to begin cautiously.
The much-delayed air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong is set to take off on May 26, authorities announced on Monday . There will be one flight a day in each direction and capped at 200 passengers per flight for the first two weeks. Stricter conditions will also be in place. This includes travellers having to remain in Singapore or Hong Kong in the last 14 days prior to departure, excluding any time spent in quarantine or stay-home notice. Hong Kong also requires its residents to be fully vaccinated before departing on the flights, with some exceptions made for children and those not suitable for vaccination on medical grounds.
The tourism boards of both cities have welcomed the new launch date and stressed that travellers can expect a “safe, yet delightful” experience. Dr Pang Yiu Kai, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said the air travel bubble will likely attract “those who travel for family visits or other essential reasons” at the early stage while leisure travellers “will return successively”. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) will work closely with trade partners in Hong Kong, such as travel booking platforms, travel agents and airlines “to drive consideration and travel via joint campaigns and deals to Singapore”, said its chief representative and executive director of Greater China Juliana Kua.
Dr Kevin Cheong, chairman of Association of Singapore Attractions, said operators of local tourist attractions are “very prepared” to open their doors to foreign visitors given the safe management measures that are in place for nearly a year. The air travel bubble is a “much-needed boost” for the battered tourism sector but the impact may be “more qualitative, rather than quantitative, at the onset”, he added. “Attractions in Singapore can easily accommodate 10,000 people a day, which means about 40 flights. We are starting with one to two flights a day so it’s not going to move the needle,” said Dr Cheong. “But in terms of qualitative and symbolic impact, the travel bubble is an extremely important step.”
For hoteliers, the air travel bubble is a “positive step forward given the slow recovery of the tourism industry”, said the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) president Kwee Wei-Lin. With international tourism accounting for more than 90 per cent of revenue among local hotels prior to the pandemic, the industry continues to struggle until borders reopen in a safe and meaningful way, she added. “Over the past few months, we have seen success from pilot hybrid MICE events and more recently increase in capacity for wedding receptions, all of which have boosted our confidence and competency in welcoming international guests to our hotels,” said Ms Kwee.
“SHA is confident that all our hotels in Singapore are now proficient and well-equipped to deliver our renowned hospitality excellence in the new era of travel … Looking beyond the Singapore-Hong Kong travel, we hope that more air travel bubbles will soon be established for vaccinated travellers in a safe and responsible manner.”