Handful of hotel, travel bookings in Singapore cancelled over Zika fears

Observers say it is too soon to gauge the likely impact of the Zika outbreak on the local economy. PHOTO: ST FILE

Hotels and travel agencies here have reported a handful of cancellations from foreigners intending to visit, amid mounting fears over the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

However, observers say that it is too soon to gauge the likely impact of the outbreak on the local economy.

Several governments, including the United States, Britain and South Korea, have issued travel advisories for those travelling to Singapore.

Mr Patrick Fiat, general manager of Royal Plaza on Scotts, said the hotel has received three cancellations since Tuesday. It waived cancellation charges for a pregnant Canadian woman.

"If the current number of cases increases, we may see the situation worsen," he said.

Travel agency Hong Thai Travel said several independent travellers from mainland China and Taiwan due here next week have cancelled their trips.

"Although they did not specify that it was because of Zika, it is unusual for travellers to cancel at the last minute," noted assistant general manager Tony Aw.

Another travel firm, Lex Travel, said that cancellations for pre-planned group tours have risen by 20 to 30 per cent since the start of the week.

"Numbers (of Zika cases) can scare people, especially tourists," said UOB economist Francis Tan. "But it's too early to tell whether there will be an impact on the economy... What we do know is that unlike Sars, which hit us in 2003, the ease of transmission and severity (in terms of mortality) are not as bad."

Then, arrivals slumped by as much as 71 per cent in a month.

Ms Jean Ng, sports director of the Singapore Tourism Board, said it will track developments closely and monitor the travel trade to address any concerns by visitors.

CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun said September is usually quiet for tourism, other than the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix, which can bring in up to $100 million in receipts.

Preparations for the Sept 16 to 18 F1 race are "on track and proceeding as per normal", said a spokesman for event organiser Singapore GP.

A Ministry of Trade and Industry spokesman told The Straits Times that the World Health Organisation has not issued travel restrictions to Zika-affected areas, and that Singapore remains a safe destination.

A Singapore Airlines spokesman said that the carrier has neither cancelled flights following news of the outbreak here nor seen shifts in demand for travel to or from Singapore.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2016, with the headline Handful of hotel, travel bookings in Singapore cancelled over Zika fears. Subscribe