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The Brandenburg Gate monument in Berlin, Germany (left) and the Merlion Park at the Marina Bay area in Singapore (right). — Unsplash and TODAY file pic
The Brandenburg Gate monument in Berlin, Germany (left) and the Merlion Park at the Marina Bay area in Singapore (right). — Unsplash and TODAY file pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 22 — Since the announcement that fully vaccinated travellers from Germany will soon be able to enter Singapore without needing to be serve a stay-home order, some travel agencies and online booking sites have seen a surge in enquiries, with one website seeing a jump of up to 70 per cent in the last 24 hours.

People who are travel-starved may have perked up at the news but this has not translated into bookings for flights or tour packages yet, the agencies told TODAY.

Mae Cheah, president of tour operator Trafalgar Travel’s Asia arm, said that it has received about 50 to 60 per cent more queries from people thinking of heading to Germany compared to a week before, though bookings have not started to roll in yet.

The company is “ready to take in customers” and expects demand for travel to “come back with a vengeance” since many Singaporeans have not been holidaying overseas for the past 18 months.

Travellers from Singapore have been able to enter Germany without quarantine but it was on Thursday (Aug 19) that Singapore announced it will open its borders for fully vaccinated travellers coming from Germany from Sept 8 without the need to serve a stay-home notice.

This is provided that they meet a set of criteria including taking designated flights that serve only vaccinated travellers without transiting elsewhere. They will also have to undergo some tests after they are here.

With this move, leisure travel between the two countries can soon resume without the need for lengthy isolation periods or quarantines.

From next month, seven designated flights from Germany to Singapore each week taking only fully vaccinated passengers will be operated by Singapore Airlines and the German airline Lufthansa.

Lavinia Rajaram, who is head of communications for Expedia’s Asia-Pacific arm, said that the latest developments have resulted in a surge in interest for travel between the two countries.

The booking site saw a 70 per cent spike in searches for travel from Germany to Singapore in the last 24 hours. This is even though Singapore is not a top 10 leisure destination for German travellers listed on the site.

On the other end, Expedia saw searches for travel from Singapore to destinations in Germany grow close to 10 times the average since the last seven days.

Sarah Wan, general manager for Klook, said that the booking site similarly observed that traffic went up five fold for write-ups on tourist activities in Germany after the announcement was made, compared to the day before.

Singapore travellers ‘still cautious’

On why there has not been a simultaneous jump in bookings in tandem with the spike in searches and enquiries, Wan said that people in Singapore may still be taking a cautious approach because they are not familiar with the travel guidelines and Covid-19 regulations that differ from place to place.

“Some may also be initially deterred by the multiple Covid-19 tests they have to take.

“We believe that interest will ramp up towards the end of the year, once more Singaporeans get acquainted with the rules and guidelines and gain more confidence,” she said.

Agreeing, Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, said that sign-ups for tour packages will not come in so quickly because travellers are still looking into the costs and documents needed to adhere to the rules at the destination country.

She predicts that leisure travel will likely pick up around November to December.

Interest in Hong Kong and Brunei

Under the relaxed border measures, fully vaccinated travellers from Brunei will also be able to enter Singapore from Sept 8 without having to serve a stay-home notice as well.

However, travel agencies and booking sites reported mixed interest in Brunei among leisure travellers.

Expedia reported a more than 300 per cent increase in interest for travel between Singapore and Brunei compared to the last seven days.

However, the country remains an unpopular travel destination among Dynasty Travel’s clientele. Seah said that this may be because the temperature and environment in Brunei is similar to Singapore’s and holidaymakers are thus not keen to travel there.

Brunei currently has strict entry and exit restrictions for all travellers. They have to apply for a permit before entry and those allowed to travel to Brunei will have to be quarantined in designated hotels upon arrival with the period of quarantine depending on the Bruneian authorities’ assessment.

From Aug 21, border restrictions will be lifted as well for all travellers from Hong Kong and Macau regardless of their vaccination status.

They will have to apply for an Air Travel Pass to enter Singapore and they do not need to serve a stay-home notice when they are here, though they would still need to undergo a polymerase chain reaction test when they arrive at the airport.

Vaccinated travellers from Singapore entering Hong Kong will still have to serve a 14-day quarantine, because Singapore is deemed as a place of medium-risk infection there.

The tour groups and booking sites TODAY approached have seen mostly Hong Kongers wanting to come to Singapore.

Expedia saw an almost 450 per cent jump in searches for travel from Hong Kong and Macau to Singapore, Rajaram said.

Millie Sze, outbound tour manager of Ace Tours and Travel, said that so far, it has been Hong Kong permanent residents living in Singapore who are making enquiries because they want to go back to their home city.

“I’ve had about three such calls since last night asking if it’s possible to book a flight there,” she said. — TODAY

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