SINGAPORE - German tourists seem to think Singapore might be the ticket for their next holiday going by the enquiries coming in to operators in the beleaguered hospitality industry.
The new Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) for visitors from Germany which kicked off earlier this month continues to draw substantial interest, say industry players.
Travel platform Expedia told The Straits Times that bookings made on the Expedia Germany platform for travel to Singapore grew by more than 70 per cent after the official VTL announcement over the previous seven-day average.
Bookings made under the VTL arrangement also average stays of seven nights or more, said Ms Lavinia Rajaram, Expedia's head of communications for the Asia Pacific.
"As travellers are more inclined to choose a longer length of stay, the hotel industry is also looking at ways to provide attractive packages for travellers, which include discounts on attractions around the island, or to its respective hotel services such dining or spa," she added.
"Hotels have also placed great emphasis on guest safety, many of which are SG Clean certified or have clearly published its health and hygiene protocols."
A spokesman from Trip.com added said it has also seen an increase in enquiries and bookings from travellers in Singapore and Germany in recent weeks, reflecting a pent-up demand for leisure jaunts.
"We expect to receive more bookings in the upcoming months, and will work with our partners to launch packages aimed at promoting travel between both countries," he said.
A spokesman from the German Embassy said that it has experienced a "constantly high volume of queries" from potential travellers and travel agencies since the VTL announcement. The embassy is also constantly updating its website to provide information and guidance, he said.
Singapore Hotel Association president Kwee Wei-Lin noted: "The VTL is an important first step for the gradual resumption of quarantine-free travel.
"Although the impact is not significant at this early stage, SHA and our members welcome the announcement of these VTLs and the implication of growing international tourist arrivals soon. With the progressive easing of travel restrictions, we hope that more VTLs will be established in the weeks ahead."
SHA has also added a VTL page on its website to provide a one-stop resource for such travellers.
The ST understands that the Pan Pacific Hotel Group has seen enquiries and bookings gradually coming in from German travellers.
The hotel is also working with third-party partners, travel agents and online platforms to develop exclusive rates for VTL travellers and extend various promotions to their customers from Germany.
Ms Cinn Tan, the hotel's chief sales and marketing officer, said: "Pan Pacific Hotels Group is looking forward to skies reopening, welcoming... travellers back to Singapore. This has been long awaited since the 'global lockdown' more than 18 months ago."
She added that the hotel group is exploring a partnership with the Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce to reach out to German corporate clientele.
The hotels have created dedicated check-in counters and allocated floors for VTL guests.
Meanwhile, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts Asia-Pacific president Ooi Joon Aun said: "Our hotels in Singapore have managed to preserve jobs for our hotel team members, electing to redeploy them to other functions internally and will be able to re-allocate them with suitable roles once travel demand picks up," he said.
The news of possible quarantine-free travel opening up is indeed welcome news for Singapore hotels, which have suffered low occupancy rates this year.
Due to the Phase 2 (heightened alert) and restrictions on group sizes, occupancy averaged 52 per cent in June during the school holidays, according to the Singapore Tourism Board, a sharp drop from the 62 per cent last December.
Occupancy rates also remained below 50 per cent in the first two quarters of this year, while they hit 58 per cent in the fourth quarter last year, and 65 per cent in the third quarter after the Circuit Breaker was lifted.
Ms Kwee said: "Our initial optimism towards domestic demand during the June school holidays was negated by the recent restrictions. Instead of healthy occupancies, our members were faced with booking cancellations for both staycations and dining experiences alike."
Mr Arthur Kiong, Far East Hospitality chief executive, said: "We must bear in mind that domestic demand, even at optimistic projections, are very far off from hotels achieving pre-Covid occupancy and capacity.
"The market is simply too small for the number of hotel rooms available. It may fill about 5 per cent to 10 per cent of total available room and inventory on an annual basis while hotels, in general, require about 40 per cent occupancy at pre-pandemic rates to cover operating costs."