Coronavirus Singapore, global situation

Many in S'pore set to go ahead with travel plans

Bus firms, agencies report no impact on sales or cancellations despite news of new virus variant

Travellers from Singapore making plans to visit countries under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme remain undeterred and ready to push on with their arrangements despite the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The new variant has been pinpointed to be behind the recent surge in infections in South Africa. On Saturday, the World Health Organisation labelled it a variant of concern as preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant.

Given that there are no disruptions so far to travel routes to Malaysia, Australia, Britain and countries in the European bloc, many travellers and players in the travel sector here are adopting a wait-and-see approach as more information on the variant emerges.

Housewife Ku Xie Mei, 43, is going ahead with her trip to her home town in Malaysia on Dec 7 despite her concerns about the Omicron variant.

"I have not been to Melaka for two years now, and although I am worried about the new variant, I have to visit my mother as she has been diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer and liver failure," said Ms Ku, a Singapore citizen.

She will be flying to Kuala Lumpur with her son, and hopes to spend 15 days with her mother.

There have been no reports of Omicron being detected in Malaysia so far, although in the Asia-Pacific, the variant has been detected in Hong Kong and Australia.

Singapore bus company Transtar - one of two bus operators designated to carry out trips under the Singapore-Malaysia land VTL - told The Straits Times that ticket sales yesterday were not impacted by news of the new Covid-19 variant.

Demand for bus tickets has been about the same since last Thursday, the first day that tickets went on sale, a spokesman said, but declined to share sales figures.

Handal Indah, the Malaysian bus company operating the same route, said it has sold over 20,000 bus tickets since sales began last Thursday - about 16,000 for trips from Singapore to Malaysia, and 6,000 in the other direction.

"We did not experience a decrease in demand on Sunday as people are still progressively booking their tickets," the firm said.

Travel agencies here said they did not receive calls or requests for cancellations yesterday from customers due to travel soon.

Mr Jeremiah Wong, senior marketing and communications manager at Chan Brothers Travel, said it had not heard of any concerns from customers booked for Europe VTL package tours.

"We have received a couple of calls from customers booked on our Australia package tours due to the change in quarantine requirements by the Australian authorities," he said.

Australia announced on Saturday that vaccinated international travellers to the states of New South Wales and Victoria must self-isolate for at least 72 hours in the light of the new variant.

Scoot said it had no confirmed cancellations of flights as at 4pm yesterday.

Singapore Airlines and Scoot also said there were no changes to their flight schedules to Malaysia, Australia, Britain or Europe at present.

A Scoot spokesman said: "As more information is needed on the transmissibility and implications of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, we are unable to comment on its impact at this early stage."

One traveller who is uncertain about her plans is Ms Joyce Tan, 62, who was making arrangements to travel to the United States to visit her brother in mid-December.

"It's a totally different environment that we're travelling in now, with a lot more arrangements that have to be made... Since I have made all these arrangements, I will avoid withdrawing from the trip voluntarily," said Ms Tan, a secretary.

She added: "Even before the Omicron variant was discovered, when I booked my flight, I was prepared that I would have to drop all my travel plans if the VTL was closed."

  • Additional reporting by Ng Keng Gene

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2021, with the headline Many in S'pore set to go ahead with travel plans. Subscribe