SINGAPORE - South Korea tops a poll of countries that Singaporeans would like the Republic to have an Air Travel Bubble with.
It was the clear favourite with 40.7 per cent in an online poll conducted by The Straits Times on Facebook on Wednesday (Oct 7), followed by Japan with 17.7 per cent, and Thailand with 16.9 per cent.
Malaysia, New Zealand and China rounded out the list with 11.6 per cent, 8.6 per cent and 4.5 per cent of the vote respectively.
The online poll was carried out following Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung's statement in Parliament on Tuesday that Singapore will negotiate Air Travel Bubbles with safe countries or regions in an arrangement for general travellers that does not require a controlled itinerary.
The poll had over 6,000 responses. Readers were asked to choose from countries which Singapore already has some form of travel arrangements with or is in the process of working on them.
Singapore and South Korea have a safe travel "Fast Lane" agreement since Sept 2, but it is currently reserved for essential business and official travel. Travellers using the Fast Lane must have a SafeTravel Pass, and are only allowed in and out through the Incheon International Airport in Seoul.
The interest in South Korea, Japan and Thailand came as no surprise to travel agencies.
Ms Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, said her company has seen strong interest in destinations like New Zealand and South Korea.
"South Korea has a lot of pull factors, from its fashion and culture to food and cosmetics. Destinations like Japan and Thailand are nearby with less than seven hours of flight time," she added.
But she noted that many Singaporeans balance between travelling and keeping safe: "Many Singaporeans are keen to get away but are still cautious of the potential risk," she said.
Mr Jeremiah Wong, senior marketing communications manager at Chan Brothers Travel, said that the poll findings were not a surprise.
"South Korea and Japan are two of our top-performing destinations over the years due to Singaporeans' penchant for the many unique touristic experiences they can enjoy in these two East Asian destinations such as food, shopping, arts and popular culture amongst others," he said.
For travellers, safety is still the primary issue. Ms Lim Wen Qing, 24, a data scientist said: "To be honest, I just want to go somewhere. I would like to go to South Korea for the food and the sights, but any place that has low levels of Covid-19 is attractive right now."