Singaporeans deter plans to Europe as Italy goes into nationwide lockdown

Singapore’s local travel sector is taking a beating with the growing number of travel bans, with the latest casualty being Italy which went into nationwide lockdown on Tuesday as authorities struggle to stem the rising tide of Covid-19 infections across Europe’s fourth-largest economy.

The country has also imposed a nationwide ban on unnecessary travel until April 3, as the number of Covid-19 cases in Italy soared by 25 per cent to 9,172 on Monday, with the death toll jumping to 463 from 366.

Singaporean travel agents report that Italy’s nationwide lockdown has impacted travel confidence to the rest of Europe

Local travel agents told TTG Asia that since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an advisory for Singaporeans to defer non-essential travel to northern Italy on March 3, they have seen a drop of 20 to 70 per cent of travel bookings and queries to Italy and other European cities.

Alicia Seah, director of marketing and communications, Dynasty Travel, said that she has faced a deluge of cancellations following the travel advisory, which has further dampened consumers’ confidence.

“Some 70 per cent of customers have postponed or cancelled their travel plans to Europe, including Italy, while the other 30 per cent are re-routing to other destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, Russia and even the Maldives,” Seah said.

She added: “With travel advisory against visiting Italy from the relevant ministries in place, airlines and hotels have allowed postponement, cancellation and re-routing to other destinations.”

Florence Ang, public relations & partnerships manager, The Travel Corporation (TTC), shared that they have cancelled all Italy trips for the rest of this month.

“Any guests who have made bookings to travel to or through Italy up until April 15, 2020 is offered to choose any alternative trip with Trafalgar (or any TTC travel company) to anywhere worldwide, with up to 15 per cent savings. Any guest who chooses to cancel can apply to take their trip at any other date within the year,” she said.

She added: “We have also re-routed some trips that travel through Italy and altered some itineraries to avoid high-risk areas.”

Steven Ler, executive director, UOB Travel, projected that there would be between 20 to 35 per cent cancellations or postponements following the incoming travel ban for Italy.

“We have also set up a dedicated service team to assist customers with changes (to their travel plans) and provide timelier updates of the (Covid-19) situation,” he said.

He added: “During this period, our focus will be to continue engaging our customers to identify their future travel requirements, such as educating them on the importance of better travel insurance coverage and travel management services which would prove to be critical in times of crisis.”

Meanwhile, some agencies are putting the lull period to good use. Since they are bracing for a slowdown in 2H2020, Seah shared that they were going to use this window of time to upskill their staff.

“With the current situation, we are going to tap on the government’s funding and relief measures to send our staff for enhanced training programmes to retrain and reskill them during this lull period,” she said.

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