Top News Mixed interest in Australia vacations as quarantine-free travel opens up By Karen Yue / Posted on 8 November, 2021 13:01 Holiday enquiries on destination Australia are up for some leading travel agencies in Singapore, as Australia prepares to reopen her borders to all vaccinated Singaporeans on November 21 without need for quarantine. • Enquiries dominated by couples and families for the year-end • Costly swab tests, Covid insurance keep some travellers away • Tourism Australia shifts to flexible conversion marketing campaigns to drive bookings Holiday enquiries on destination Australia are up for some leading travel agencies in Singapore, as Australia prepares to reopen her borders to all vaccinated Singaporeans on November 21 without need for quarantine. Australia’s close proximity to Singapore and popularity as a holiday destination for Singapore residents pre-pandemic are said to play a key role in spurring the quick return in travel interest. Some travel agents in Singapore have seen an uptick in inquiries for year-end travel to Australia; Great Ocean Road pictured (Photo Credit: Tourism Australia) ASA Holidays has received “a fair bit of enquiries” for year-end departures to Australia, said spokesperson Shannon Hee. Dynasty Travel International has about 80 enquiries for year-end trips on record, most of them by couples and families – in line with Australia’s strong appeal among families with young and teenage children, thanks to the destination’s “natural playgrounds and activities”, shared spokesperson Alicia Seah. Customers are keen on small group arrangements with personalised service and flexible booking terms and conditions. Most of Dynasty’s enquiries came through the company’s hotlines and social media channels, and many have registered their interest in receiving further updates on Dynasty’s Australia tour packages. According to Chan Brothers Travel’s spokesperson Jeremiah Wong, enquiries via social media channels streamed in even before the official announcement was made on October 31. “Although Europe may have had a head start on Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL), we are confident that interest in Australia holidays – including departures for the year-end season and beyond – will continue to rise, as Australia has always been a popular destination, with diverse tourism assets that appeal to a wide range of Singaporean travellers,” remarked Wong. To tap travel opportunities, Costsaver Tours, a brand of The Travel Corporation, is launching a nine-day trip to Sydney and Melbourne that “matches up with existing VTL regulations”, said Wong Yan Kit, senior sales manager, AAT Kings and Inspiring Journeys. Quarantine-free travel to Australia is presently only possible to three jurisdictions: New South Wales (NSW), which Sydney is part of; Victoria, which Melbourne is part of; and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). When asked if the limited destination options would hamper a strong resumption of travel from Singapore this holiday season, Seah said the “mega cities of Sydney and Melbourne” are enough of a draw. However, the same optimism is not shared by all travel agencies. Cathy Loh, director, Aveson Travel, said: “We are not expecting leisure travel to (rebound) as yet because of the cost of tests plus insurance, which will amount to S$600 (US$446.40) per pax. So far, we are only getting bookings for those going back to visit their parents and relatives.” Australia’s strict Covid curbs on activities are also dampening holiday dreams, as there are more restrictions compared to other VTL destinations, observed Loh. A limit of 4,000 travellers per day arriving into Singapore on designated VTL flights adds to travellers’ challenges, opined travel agents. Ramping up destination promotions Now that quarantine-free leisure access for fully vaccinated Singaporeans is certain from November 21, Tourism Australia’s marketing efforts will focus on profiling the locations that are welcoming. A two-phase campaign will commence on November 12 with the release of We’re Excited to Welcome You Back – an invitation directed at Singaporeans, featuring destination imagery of NSW, Victoria and the ACT. The second phase of the campaign is designed to drive desire and urgency for an Australian holiday and to remind Singaporeans of all the incredible experiences that await them in Australia for their next getaway. Australia’s tourism landscape has changed for the better during the international travel freeze. New experiences include two additional climbs at the Sydney Harbour Bridge; luxurious eco-friendly accommodation pods in a wildlife refuge near the Great Ocean Road, where guests can get up close with some local animals; and a hot air balloon ride above Canberra, offered by the National Museum of Australia, which rounds off with a curated museum tour and champagne breakfast. Hotel openings have also continued to take place this year, with more to come in 2022. Tourism Australia’s shift to conversion marketing campaigns is built upon a foundation of continued content initiatives in the Singapore market throughout 2020 and 2021, which were carried out with the single aim of keeping travellers “dreaming and planning for future travel in Australia”, shared Ann Lim, Tourism Australia’s country manager Singapore. Pre-Covid, Australia welcomed 479,000 visitors from Singapore, the country’s sixth largest source market: Lim Outreach spans public relations, social media and paid content across key media channels, while trade engagements are kept up by Tourism Australia alongside state and territory tourism organisations through the Aussie Specialist community via virtual channels. Lim shared that the Aussie Specialist programme and community network have proven to be “pivotal in ensuring that travel agents possess the relevant health and safety knowledge to help travellers navigate the ongoing impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic on leisure and business travel”. The programme was recently upgraded and now offers greater personalisation, faster qualifying times, as well as shorter and more interactive training modules. “Even with borders closed, Singapore outbound travel agents in the Aussie Specialist network have been continually engaging with Australian content through platforms such as the Aussie Specialist website, e-newsletters and virtual trade events,” said Lim, adding that there are now 330 qualified Aussie Specialists in Singapore. Lim emphasised the importance of the Singapore travel market – one with an average 479,000 visitors who used to spend A$1.53 billion (US$1.15 billion) in Australia each year pre-pandemic. “Singaporeans house a strong desire for travel to Australia, which is widely known as Singapore’s closest Western tourism destination,” she said, adding that Singaporeans consider Australia to be one of the safest international travel destinations, online travel searches by Singaporeans for September to November 2021 have been higher than in 2019, and airlines are responding to strong demand by ramping up operations to 80 flights collectively for more than 15,000 passengers by December 2021. “As Australia’s sixth largest source market for international visitation and seventh most valuable for spend, Tourism Australia anticipates that the resumption of travel from Singapore will provide a huge boost to an industry currently in the grips of an economic crisis,” she told TTG Asia. She added: “The travel arrangements between the two countries serve as an important step towards resuming inbound travel to Australia from other key international markets, when and where safe and practical to do so.” However, she also acknowledged that the “resumption of travel between Singapore and Australia will not fill the void of lost international tourism business during the end-of-year summer holiday season”. In the initial months of travel resumption, Tourism Australia anticipates the return of High Value Travellers (HVTs) as well as Australian expatriates to the country. “Spending two to three times more on international travel than the average traveller, there are an estimated 1.4 million HVTs in Singapore, half of which are considering Australia as their next travel destination. We hope these travellers will select Australia as their summer holiday vacation of choice. While in Australia, HVTs will seek out enriching food and drink, aquatic and coastal, self-drive and nature and wildlife experiences that can be discovered across the country,” Lim elaborated. Returning Australian expatriates are also expected to unleash their pent-up travel desires on longer adventures in and around the country. – Additional reporting by Therese Tan Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included statements by Ong Han Jie, director, EU Holidays, which have since been retracted on the basis of accuracy.