Coronavirus: Travel bubbles

S'poreans want air travel bubble with S. Korea: Survey

Japan and Thailand also popular choices, but safety still a main priority for most travellers

Seoul's Myeongdong shopping district. Travel agents say the interest in South Korea was not surprising, with one adding that the country has many pull factors, from fashion and culture, to food and cosmetics.
Seoul's Myeongdong shopping district. Travel agents say the interest in South Korea was not surprising, with one adding that the country has many pull factors, from fashion and culture, to food and cosmetics.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

South Korea was the top choice in a poll asking which country Singapore should negotiate with for an air travel bubble agreement.

The country was the clear favourite with 40.7 per cent of the vote, followed by Japan with 17.7 per cent and Thailand with 16.9 per cent.

Malaysia (11.6 per cent), New Zealand (8.6 per cent) and China (4.5 per cent) rounded out the list.

The online poll was conducted by The Straits Times on Facebook yesterday after 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 without the controlled itinerary required by current travel agreements.

The poll received more than 6,000 responses. Readers were asked to choose from six countries that Singapore already has some form of travel arrangements with, or is in the process of discussing such arrangements.

Singapore and South Korea have had a safe travel fast-lane agreement since Sept 2 which is reserved for essential business and official travel. Travellers using the fast lane must have a SafeTravel Pass and go only through Seoul's Incheon International Airport.

The Republic has had a similar arrangement with Japan since Sept 11, known as the reciprocal green lane. Singapore has also been in talks with Thailand since Aug 26 about a similar lane.

The interest in South Korea, Japan and Thailand was not surprising for travel agencies.

Ms Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, said there is strong interest in destinations such as 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."

But she stressed that many balance travelling with keeping safe, adding: "Many Singaporeans are keen to get away but are still cautious of the potential risk."

Mr Jeremiah Wong, senior marketing communications manager at Chan Brothers Travel, said: "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... such as food, shopping, the arts and popular culture."

  • HOW THEY SCORED

  • • SOUTH KOREA: 40.7 per cent

    • JAPAN: 17.7 per cent

    • THAILAND: 16.9 per cent 

    • MALAYSIA: 11.6 per cent 

    • NEW ZEALAND: 8.6 per cent 

    • CHINA: 4.5 per cent

For consumers, safety is still key.

Data scientist Lim Wen Qing, 24, 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 with low levels of Covid-19 is attractive right now."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2020, with the headline 'S'poreans want air travel bubble with S. Korea: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe