SINGAPORE - The weekend after news of the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) to Germany broke on Aug 19, Mr Reuben Lim headed to tour agencies to check out packages.
News of the VTL was a huge relief to the avid traveller, who used to take monthly business trips to various countries in Asia-Pacific, on top of an annual holiday with his family.
Mr Lim, who works in the IT industry, will be part of the first leisure group tour to Germany leaving Singapore on Wednesday (Sept 22) at 12.45am. It has been about 1½ years since Covid-19 curtailed air travel, especially for leisure and organised tour groups.
The 56-year-old, who paid about $9,600 in total and will be going with his daughter, 24, said: "I wanted to get back to living life normally and to get out of Singapore for a change of scenery.
"I was feeling fatigued from all the Zoom meetings and experiencing cabin fever. I'm quite excited about this trip and privileged that I can travel during this period."
Organised by EU Holidays, the 12-day foray will start in Munich and cover other cities such as Stuttgart and Frankfurt. The six people in the group are aged between mid-20s and late 60s.
Mr Wong Yew Hoong, director of EU Holidays, said precautions will be put in place, such as having antigen rapid test (ART) kits on board should a tour member feel unwell, and using a 40-seat bus so safe distancing can be observed.
The tour group members have to don masks at all times, and meals on the tour will be served individually.
The VTL will allow fully inoculated travellers to fly to Germany and return without having to be quarantined. They will instead be subjected to several Covid-19 tests - one before departure, one on arrival in Singapore, and the rest on days three and seven after arrival - and a short period of isolation.
Such requirements have prompted some people, including Mr Jeff Sim, 32, to opt for a package.
While most of his previous trips were free and easy, Mr Sim, a freelancer, said he opted for the EU tour for peace of mind.
"I feel safer because if anything happens, for example, if I test positive and need to be quarantined in Germany, there would be someone to help me with the arrangements instead of having to figure it out by myself," he added.
He will exercise more care himself, such as taking ART kits along and dining in open-air areas if possible.
Other tour agencies told The Straits Times that they are lining up similar packages.
Chan Brothers Travel is set to have its first group depart on Oct 11 to Germany and is expecting about 20 participants.
Dynasty Travel is planning for departures in October, November and December.
Other industry players, such as SA Tours and ASA Holidays, are gauging the demand from customers.
A spokesman said ASA is "receiving an influx of inquiries to depart during the year end and we will look towards building an ideal itinerary to ensure their safety".
More than half the German population have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.