SINGAPORE - The move to start a scheme allowing for vaccinated travellers to come to Singapore is a significant one that can kick-start the recovery of the travel sector, industry players said.
The Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, which was announced on Thursday (Aug 19), allows for fully vaccinated travellers to skip quarantine in lieu of multiple Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests.
Singapore has unilaterally opened up to travellers from Germany and Brunei in its first steps in the scheme.
Accordingly, the Government has also updated its travel advisory to allow for travel to these two destinations.
While Brunei is still closed to leisure travel, Germany had earlier unilaterally opened its borders to Singapore.
This means Singapore residents can now go on leisure trips there and return without quarantine in either country - a first for the Republic since the Covid-19 pandemic forced borders to close in March last year.
Mr Lim Ching Kiat, managing director of market development at Changi Airport Group, called the opening of the VTLs a very positive development for Changi Airport and Singapore's aviation hub.
"It reduces the inconvenience of travel and will help to boost travel demand and improve passenger traffic at Changi," he said.
"We look forward to welcoming visitors travelling on VTLs and hope Singapore residents will also consider this new travel option."
Flag carrier Singapore Airlines, which will be operating designated VTL flights, also lauded the travel lanes as a significant step in the safe reopening of the Singapore air hub.
According to the Singapore Tourism Board, there were 381,000 visitor arrivals from Germany in 2019 - the 15th-largest source of arrivals.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata), which represents airlines, called on other Asia-Pacific countries to take similar steps to reopen their borders.
Iata deputy director-general Conrad Clifford said that many states in the region continue to adopt a risk-averse zero-Covid-19 approach by keeping borders shut, which "is detrimental to both their economies and their populations".
Mr Clifford added: "A data-driven approach using vaccination and testing can manage the risk of Covid-19 when reopening borders to international travel.
"Singapore has shown leadership in demonstrating that it is safe to reopen international travel without quarantine."
Mr Steven Ler, president of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, said the news was the most positive one that travel agents have received since the pandemic started.
"Germany is among the top five destinations in Europe. Usually leisure travellers will like to go to Germany and a few neighbouring countries, such as France and United Kingdom, at the same time," he said.
"So the difference now is that this is going to be just Germany, but it will give people the opportunity for people to explore the many leisure destinations within the country."
He said travel agents are looking to quickly put together offerings to tap the demand for trips to Germany.
Dr Norbert Riedel, Germany's Ambassador to Singapore, said the move to replace self-isolation of arriving travellers with a frequent testing regime seems to be justified in the light of the Republic's successful vaccination programme.
"We are confident that those individuals travelling under the VTL scheme will show the necessary self-discipline and self-responsibility by adhering to the necessary testing requirement," he added.