Latest Covid restrictions upset Singapore’s tourism recovery potential

Previously optimistic travel search activity between Singapore and Hong Kong has taken a plunge as Singapore tightens its safety measures in response to rising community cases over the past week.

According ADARA data, search activity for Singapore-Hong Kong flights plummeted some 90 per cent between the start of the Covid-19 infection cluster on April 27 and May 4 – a quick halt to the 1,400 per cent spike accompanying the announcement of the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble on April 26.

Latest movement restrictions in Singapore have not impacted June school holiday bookings for The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts’s properties in the city-state

This “stop and start” pattern mirrors an earlier attempt at the Singapore-Hong Kong bubble in November 2020, and has also been observed in the Australia-New Zealand bubble, noted Singapore’s transport minister Ong Ye Kung. He added: “Perhaps that is why we call them bubbles; because they are, by nature, a bit fragile, given the circumstances we are in.”

For some of Singapore’s inbound tourism players, adopting a cautious strategy for the travel bubble may now be paying off. Search activity for Hong Kong-Singapore flights modestly doubled after the bubble announcement, and was quick to flatline after news of Singapore’s recent cluster.

Several tour operators, such as Xperience Singapore DMC and Oriental Travel and Tours, maintained their domestic focus as bookings continue to pour in, buoyed by the government’s decision to extend the SingapoRediscover Vouchers to December 31.

Although the latest cluster incited a clampdown on tour group capacity – from May 8, it will be reduced from a maximum of 50 to 20 – business that have taken on a more conservative approach are enjoying strong forward bookings into the June school holidays.

Oriental Travel and Tours’ co-founder, Jasmine Tan, shared: “Our tour sizes have remained the same at 20 pax per guide. Now, instead of eight per sub-group, we have five, so our tour bookings are not affected.

“For the month of May, we are almost fully booked on weekends and the Hari Raya holiday. We only have a few slots available in the end of May. We’ve also begun to see some bookings for the first two weeks of June.”

Similarly, The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts saw optimistic demand for May and June from both the domestic crowd and bubble travellers from Hong Kong. While its promotions targeting Hong Kong sparked “quite a number of enquiries and bookings, mainly from corporates in the legal, banking, financial and aviation industries who are keen to book for stays between seven to 14 nights”, Singapore demand continues to hold strong, said its general manager, Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale.

He described: “We are experiencing healthy forward bookings for the June holiday period and continue to expect an upward trend as we draw closer to the holiday season, especially from families and couples. The (stricter Covid-19 measures) will only take effect from May 8 to 30, hence, we have not received much impact on the bookings for the June holiday period.”

For now, the group is doubling down on its safety protocols, with approximately 90 per cent of its staff vaccinated against Covid-19.

Also prudently poised for the June holiday crowds is Gardens by the Bay, which recently launched the Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom exhibition.

Jason Koo, its director of attractions operations, shared that May numbers at its ticketed attractions are expected to be on par with the average booking rate of 30 to 40 per cent.

“The reduction in capacity at attractions from 65 to 50 per cent is understandable and prudent in light of the increased community cases in Singapore. We do not expect the reduction to immediately impact us this month; however, we do hope the local health situation will improve soon to allow us to receive more visitors during the June school holidays,” he expressed.

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