S'poreans seek travel agencies' recommendations on safer destinations as Covid-19 border curbs eased

People queueing at the Singapore Airlines Service Centre at Ion Orchard at noon on Oct 10, 2021.
People queueing at the Singapore Airlines Service Centre at Ion Orchard at noon on Oct 10, 2021.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Snaking queues were observed at the Singapore Airlines (SIA) service centre, and travel agencies were inundated with enquiries as Singaporeans rushed to make travel plans on Sunday (Oct 10).

The surge comes a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that travel curbs would be further eased.

It was announced on Saturday that those who are vaccinated against Covid-19 can fly to Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain and the United States from Oct 19.

They may also fly to South Korea from Nov 15.

But even as Singaporeans scrambled to secure travel itineraries, travel agents said many have also asked for more information about safe management practices in European countries - a reflection of the anxiety some still have about how safe it is to go abroad during a pandemic.

Mr Jeremiah Wong, a spokesman for Chan Brothers Travel, said: "They've asked if there are any destinations that have handled the pandemic better and if there are any that might be safer for travelling. Some have also asked about the safe travel protocols that Chan Brothers Travel have put in place."

Ms Alicia Seah, a spokesman for Dynasty Travel, said it expects travel to pick up significantly by the first half of next year.

She added that some people may also be waiting for the initial price surge in flights to pass before firming up their travel plans.

The agencies said itineraries to South Korea appear to be in high demand, likely because of interest generated by the media there.

Checks on the SIA site showed that while a return trip on economy class to Seoul would usually cost as little as $679, prices in November have surged on some days to more than $1,500.

Return trips to Italy, Netherlands and Spain were about $960 for economy seats.

But while demand is expected to increase in the coming weeks, the travel agencies appear to be waiting to see if that demand is sustained enough to justify increasing manpower.

Ms Kay Swee Pin, chief executive officer of SA Tours, said it has recalled only a small team of 10 staff so far.

Mr Wong said Chan Brothers Travel welcomes the positive outlook, but will have to see how the situation develops.

"As leisure tourism recovers cautiously, it is in our organisation's plan to monitor and adjust our manpower resources to better support the business moving forward," he said.

"We believe that travel professionals, who are more often than not passionate travellers themselves, are welcoming the positive outlook that we are observing and will be looking forward to being back doing what they are passionate about."