S'pore-HK air travel bubble: Travel agencies to work with tourism bodies to ensure safety

The travel bubble move has excited residents living in both Singapore and Hong Kong.
The travel bubble move has excited residents living in both Singapore and Hong Kong.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Travel agencies will work closely with tourism associations to ensure passenger safety when the air travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore takes off.

The two-way bubble announced on Thursday (Oct 15) will allow travel between both locations without quarantine, subject to conditions, including testing negative for Covid-19.

Ms Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, noted that safety will be among Singaporeans' topmost concerns if they travel.

The agency will collaborate with the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) and Hong Kong Disneyland for outbound travel, she said.

"We will be working closely with tourism associations to produce webinars with reopening advice for local attractions," Ms Seah added.

Topics include developing hygiene practices to reassure visitors as well as exploring "touchless" experiences, where visitors pre-book time slots or pre-purchase tickets.

HKTB chairman Pang Yiu Kai welcomed the air bubble move, saying that Singapore is one of the major source markets of Hong Kong's tourism industry. Last year, there were more than 450,000 visitor arrivals from Singapore.

Dr Pang added that the Hong Kong government restarted its promotion campaign in July to draw Singaporeans over, while last week, HKTB launched a standardised hygiene protocol for tourism-related sectors with the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency.

"The protocol prepares the tourism-related sectors to welcome visitors back while bolstering visitors' confidence in travelling to Hong Kong," he said.

Travel agency Chan Brothers said it has "pulled out all the stops to safeguard travellers' and employees' health and well-being".

It has reduced its group size to a maximum of 25, while on-site group commentaries during tours have also been reduced and replaced when possible with on-coach ones.

Mr Conrad Clifford, the International Air Transport Association's (Iata) regional vice-president for Asia-Pacific, lauded the move to establish a travel bubble.

"Replacing quarantine with testing will help in reopening borders, restoring the connectivity that jobs and economic activity depend on, and give passengers greater confidence to travel," he said. He noted that a recent Iata survey of 11 markets found that 83 per cent of respondents indicated they would not travel if there was a chance of being quarantined at their destination.

The travel bubble move has excited residents living in both cities.

Lawyer Ho Wan Yi, a 29-year-old Singaporean living in Hong Kong, said: "Even though the two cities are only a few hours away by plane, the pandemic has made it impossible for Singaporeans working in Hong Kong to take weekend trips home to see family and friends.

"It would be great to be able to fly back and forth freely again, without having to quarantine for 14 days on both sides."

Ms Christabel Lum, 28, who works in the fintech sector in Hong Kong, said: "Most Singaporeans based in Hong Kong have been unable to go home for the past nine months, so this is definitely great news.

"The travel bubble will make things a lot easier too as we won't have to factor in an extra seven to 14 days' quarantine each way."

Mr Nitin Kakaria, 40, a permanent resident in Singapore, said he is planning to go to Hong Kong for work and leisure once the date for the travel bubble is confirmed.

The Indian national, an executive director at a bank, said he worked in Hong Kong for eight years before moving to Singapore. "I have zero concerns because the Singapore Government has been doing well so far to contain the coronavirus."

Additional reporting by Ang Qing