Singaporean holidaymakers give US a miss

Tourists pose in front of the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
Tourists pose in front of the Statue of Liberty in New York City.PHOTO: REUTERS

Travel agencies report drop in bookings to US, but Europe, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan still popular

This June, most Singaporeans will holiday in familiar places in the West and around the region - with a notable exception.

Their main travel destinations are still Europe, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, according to major travel agencies such as Chan Brothers Travel and Dynasty Travel, as well as online booking site Expedia.

But, marking a departure from the trend of previous years, there has been a drop in bookings to the United States. Previously reported by The New Paper, agencies such as Dynasty Travel and CS Travel have had up to a 30 per cent drop in bookings to the country.

Travel agents put this down to recent attempted policy changes by the Trump administration, such as Executive Order 13769, referred to as the "Muslim ban" by the media, which was aimed at suspending entry to the US by citizens from countries in the Middle East such as Iraq and Syria.

Ms Alicia Seah, 52, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, said: ''Although the travel ban is not targeted at any Asia-Pacific country, this contentious move that targets predominantly Muslim-populated countries may portray a deep hostility to the world beyond America's shores and put off global travellers.''

SO-CALLED 'MUSLIM BAN' A FACTOR

Although the travel ban is not targeted at any Asia-Pacific country, this contentious move that targets predominantly Muslim-populated countries may portray a deep hostility to the world beyond America's shores and put off global travellers. ''

MS ALICIA SEAH, 52, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, on how recent US policy changes may have put off some Singaporean tourists.


EUROPE'S APPEAL STILL STRONG

Demand for Europe remains consistently strong with a skew towards United Kingdom, Nordic regions like Iceland and Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. ''

MS JUSTINE KOH, 24, marketing communications executive at Chan Brothers Travel.


TRAVEL BUG TRUMPS TERROR THREAT

The way I see terrorism is that it could hit anywhere. If you're afraid, then you're not safe anywhere. ''

MS GILLIAN TAN, 26, who works in marketing.

Singaporeans seem to be favouring Europe instead, especially the less-travelled parts.

Ms Justine Koh, 24, marketing communications executive at Chan Brothers Travel, said: ''Demand for Europe remains consistently strong with a skew towards United Kingdom, Nordic regions like Iceland and Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe.''

Ms Seah added: ''There is also great interest to visit less-explored (areas) such as the Balkans.''

Travellers do not seem put off by the recent acts of terrorism in major European cities such as Berlin and London, perhaps due to them becoming desensitised to the risk, or perceiving it as small or insignificant, said travel operators.

''The terrorist attacks in various European cities have not impacted the travel demand,'' said Ms Seah.

''There seems to be an emergence of a 'Carry on as normal' culture in response to terrorism.''

Travellers expressed similar sentiments to The Straits Times.

Some, like Ms Gillian Tan, believe the fear of terrorism should not impede one's travel plans. ''The way I see terrorism is that it could hit anywhere,'' said the 26-year-old marketing executive. ''If you're afraid, then you're not safe anywhere.''

Housewife June Lee, 51, who is currently on holiday in Europe with her family, agrees that the joys of travel are still worth the possible risks. ''London is still a safe city and its beauty and sights are worth the small risk,'' she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2017, with the headline 'Holidaymakers give US a miss'. Print Edition | Subscribe