Europe’s early move to reopen its borders for leisure travel with minimal restrictions has left a deep imprint in the minds of many holiday-starved Singapore residents, paving the way for the region to emerge a hot favourite this year, observed outbound consultants in the city-state.
Outbound agency Super Travels told TTG Asia that bookings obtained so far this year for Europe have returned to 80 per cent of 2019 levels.
Huijuan Lim, co-founder of Wondergolander, a bespoke luxury travel agency specialising in longhaul destinations, said customers “like to feel free of Covid-related restrictions” – a freedom that Europe has offered ahead of other Asian destinations.
Most of Wondergolander’s clients have elected Europe for their next holiday, and have requested for customised itineraries.
For many Singapore residents, taking a longhaul trip may also be a momentous decision. Jess Yap, founder of Intriq Journey, a luxury tailor-made travel expert, shared that there are more requests for such trips compared to short-haul ones. “For them, it could be their first trip post-Covid, so they are excited and want to travel farther and (for a) longer (duration),” she added.
Jeremiah Wong, spokesperson for Chan Brothers Travel, rejects the idea that “longhaul destinations fare better than short-haul ones, or vice versa”, saying that popular destinations now were already a hit pre-Covid. Hot favourites then and now include Europe, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
Reflecting on the recently concluded NATAS Holidays 2022 travel fair in Singapore, Wong said most customers already have their preferred destinations in mind, and had directly enquired about them at the consumer travel fair.
With greater disposable savings, travellers are willing to spend more on their trips. In the case of Chan Brothers, packages have been upgraded with higher quality elements such as higher-end hotels and travel insurance with Covid-19 protection to reassure travellers.
In comparison with Europe, some travel consultants told TTG Asia that demand for Asian destinations has returned at a slower pace, especially since destinations such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia had only gradually reopened their borders and eased regulations for international travellers in recent months. The lack of regional flight capacity, resulting in higher ticket prices, is another possible reason for the slower recovery.
William Huang, marketing manager with Super Travels, said bookings for Asian destinations are at 65 per cent of 2019.
He said: “The biggest challenge for regional travel is that some Asian destinations still have travel restrictions in place, like Taiwan and Hong Kong which require on-arrival quarantine, and South Korea which requires on-arrival PCR tests. The one Asian destination that has picked up the most for us is Vietnam, and I believe it is because the country has removed all its travel restrictions.”
Interest in Japan has also intensified, fuelled by the country’s reopening to guided tours since June 10.
Yap said travellers to Japan now could experience the destination without the usual hordes of tourists in popular cities like Kyoto. — Additional reporting by Karen Yue