Weaker Singdollar could hit students abroad but not Singapore travellers

Free and easy travellers are likely to face higher costs, but travel sentiment in general should stay strong as price increases do not usually deter Singaporeans, say agents.
Free and easy travellers are likely to face higher costs, but travel sentiment in general should stay strong as price increases do not usually deter Singaporeans, say agents.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

The weaker Singapore dollar is not likely to dampen travel sentiment or drive up travel package prices for the next few months at least, but those studying abroad might feel the pinch.

Travel agencies Chan Brothers Travel and CTC Travel said their package prices will stay the same until September this year as advertising and promotion had already been done based on those rates.

Said Ms Jane Chang, head of marketing communications for Chan Brothers Travel: "If there are any changes due to the weakening of the Singapore dollar, we might see an impact in the last quarter of the year."

Other travel agents said cost increases might balance out. Factors such as lower airfare, fuel charges and other currency fluctuations might even out the costs to consumers and travel companies, said Ms Sylvia Tan, vice-president of marketing and public relations at CTC Travel.

Similarly, Ms Alicia Seah, director of marketing communications at Dynasty Travel, said if travel demand starts to slow, airlines might lower fares.

Free and easy travellers are likely to face higher costs, but travel sentiment in general should stay strong as price hikes do not usually deter Singaporeans, said agents.

"At most, they might cut down on their spending overseas, or go for a moderately priced tour instead of a premium one," said Ms Eva Wu, spokesman for SA Tours.

After the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced changes to its currency policy yesterday, the Singapore dollar dropped to 1.357 against the US dollar - the lowest since August 2010, although it rose slightly later in the day.

While this has minimal impact on travellers for now, students who live in countries such as the United States or Australia are likely to face rising costs.

As of 8.45pm yesterday, the Singapore dollar fell by about 1 per cent against the Australian dollar.

Ms Nicole Niam, 21, who starts a three-year postgraduate course in Australia next month, needs about A$80,000 to A$90,000 (S$85,000 to S$96,000) for living expenses over three years. It will now cost her roughly $300 more per year.

"This will not have much of an impact on my lifestyle," she said.

For others, the extra costs have bigger consequences.

Ms Chong Qiaoxing, 27, who is more than half a year into a two- year master's course in the US, had planned to exchange a five- figure sum in US dollars for her living expenses and tuition fees in August to last her till next year. This is likely to cost her about $5,000 more now, compared with last year.

"I already live frugally because studying abroad is expensive and every cent counts. Food portions are big here, and I can split lunch and take away the rest for dinner.

"Now, I might have to delay exchanging the currency and maybe think twice about going on holidays during my breaks. I hope my part-time job can help cover living expenses till then," she said.

cherylw@sph.com.sg