Despite talk of travel bubbles, S'poreans prefer to wait and see

The Banyan Tree Bintan's Kelong Villa. PHOTO: BANYAN TREE BINTAN

SINGAPORE - Recent talk of travel bubbles with destinations such as Phuket, Bintan, Australia and Taiwan has caused ripples of excitement among a travel-starved Singapore crowd.

But when it comes to actual bookings, would-be travellers are taking a more measured approach.

Travel agents The Straits Times spoke to said prospective customers are waiting for the green light from both Singapore and their would-be destination's national tourism organisations before they proceed with bookings.

Details about the health and safety requirements, paperwork and the attractions available, all of which are pending, are also weighing on customers' decisions.

Dynasty Travel's director of public relations and communications, Ms Alicia Seah, said the company has received "a handful" of enquiries in recent weeks from people who have been vaccinated.

However, the company is waiting for more information from its overseas counterparts on what attractions are available so that it can tailor packages accordingly, she added.

In Phuket, for instance, Phuket Fantasea cultural theme park, a draw for travellers, remains closed. There is also no word yet on whether travellers returning from Phuket would need to be quarantined or serve a stay-home notice, which would dissuade many.

Although optimistic about the prospective travel bubble announcements, Chan Brothers Travel is also proceeding with caution.

"Any form of leisure travel resumption is likely to be planned and developed in a concerted and conservative manner at the beginning," said senior marketing communications manager Jeremiah Wong.

Travellers, too, are not getting their hopes up after last year's travel bubble with Hong Kong popped just a day before the first flight in November, due to a spike of coronavirus cases in the territory.

Mr Hendric Tay, 33, who was booked on the first flight to Hong Kong last year, said he will not be making concrete plans for a new destination until a travel bubble is announced.

"After Hong Kong and having an understanding of the global situation, it is good to be hopeful but not too excited.

At the end of the day, we want to make sure any travel is done safely," said the founder of content media agency and travel publication The Travel Intern.

The Hong Kong travel bubble has also made auditor Amy Tay, 35, more sceptical about upcoming ones.

"People would have had to book hotels and take leave. I'm somebody who hates to have my plans disrupted and would be disappointed if I wasn't able to go at the last minute," she said.

A empty beach in Phuket on March 11, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

Indeed, Dr Michael Chiam, a senior tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, recommended keeping abreast of news about the destination when planning a trip within a travel bubble, as the arrangement is dynamic and there could be restrictions imposed on certain parts of a country due to the pandemic.

When the time comes, agencies such as Chan Brothers Travel see new relevance for themselves, providing travel information such as health and safety standards as people venture tentatively across borders once more.

Mr Wong said: "In short, we see ourselves as the new BFF of travellers, who have got their backs and can help them manage any disruptions to their travel plans if they occur."

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