Singapore’s vaccinated travel lanes raise flight, hotel reservations, but overall improvements are dampened

  • Leisure, VFR and expatriate segments dominate November and December flights to Singapore
  • Hotels see bookings improve for year-end as VTL markets generate new demand
  • Comprehensive recovery on arrival hampered by regional travel restrictions and local distancing measures

Singapore’s decision to further relax border controls as well as social restrictions have led to an increase in hotel requests and bookings from countries with a vaccinated lane (VTL) with the city-state.

To date, Singapore has launched VTLs with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland , the United Kingdom and the United States and will start with Malaysia, Finland, Sweden and Indonesia. and India from November 29. The same is planned with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from December 6, which will bring the total number of VTL countries to 21.

Singapore hotels like The Fullerton Hotel (above) have seen increased requests following VTL’s announcement

According to a spokesperson for Marina Bay Sands, the integrated resort has seen an overall increase in bookings from overseas travelers from VTL countries, particularly Australia, US, Malaysia, UK United and South Korea, most of them staying during the peak period of November and December. The bulk of these bookings were made by FIT travelers, and many went through OTAs.

Pan Pacific Hotels Group properties in Singapore also saw slight growth in bookings from inbound travelers, revealed Cinn Tan, director of sales and marketing.

“In October 2021, international travelers in the VTL markets accounted for between five and eight percent of our total room nights booked. The main markets for which we receive reservations are the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and South Korea, ”said Tan.

Charis Choi, director of sales and marketing at Grand Hyatt Singapore, also sees better days for the holiday season ahead. “With the reopening of international travel, there has been an increase in demand and a faster pace than in previous months,” she said, adding that bookings were pouring in from the United States, Australia, Switzerland, South Korea, Germany and France.

At Fullerton Hotel Singapore and Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, inquiries have increased following news from VTL, with customers a mix of travelers and Singaporeans returning primarily from the UK and US. General Manager Giovanni Viterale expects bookings and inquiries to increase in the coming weeks, especially as travelers plan their year-end getaways.

Slow recovery
While the mood among Singaporean hoteliers is more positive today, Singapore travel and tourism players agree that improvements upon arrival are still muted.

Allen Khoo, resident manager of Shangri-La Singapore, observed that while requests from VTL customers have increased, there have been no spikes in bookings. In fact, bookings for the holiday season are still dominated by domestic demand.

The potential for dramatic improvements in inbound arrivals from Singapore is hampered by a current quota of 10,000 travelers per day for all VTL countries.

Another obstacle to resuming inbound travel, according to Steven Ler, president of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, is that most VTLs involve long-haul travel – markets that typically bundle Singapore as a twin destination with a other Southeast Asian country.

With the current cross-border restrictions remaining in Southeast Asia, these long-haul travelers can only spend their time in Singapore, making the trip “an expensive attempt,” Ler explained.

“However, the dynamic would be different when Australia and other neighboring countries opened up,” he added.

Association of Singapore Attractions President Kevin Cheong also estimated that the first wave of VTL travelers will be primarily business travelers, returning expats and long-term pass holders, and individuals. visiting friends and relatives in Singapore.

“Regular leisure travelers could still be hesitant due to seat availability and travel costs, and could wait until more restrictions are lifted,” he said.

Indeed, Kwee Wei-Lin, president of the Singapore Hotel Association, stressed that Singapore’s safe management measures will need to return to pre-pandemic level so that tourists can enjoy authentic local experiences without restrictions.

“Compared to countries with less stringent public health protocols, such as mandatory face masks and dining restrictions, Singapore’s attractiveness as a travel destination is compromised. Many countries participating in the VTL program have less stringent controls. Therefore, we may not see significant arrivals until the visitor experience in Singapore improves.

Flight bookings before Christmas at the highest
Airline ticket data collected by ForwardKeys indicated an increase in booking dynamics from late October, peaking in mid-December to reach 18% of 2019 levels.

“Arrivals the week before Christmas are at an all time high since the pandemic. Arrivals from the United States reached 35% of 2019 levels, with Europe lagging behind at 28%, ”said Jameson Wong, vice president of clients and APAC partnerships at ForwardKeys.

Arrivals from Australia and South Korea are 26% and 18% of 2019 levels respectively.

Positive movements in demand for flights to Singapore have been observed since August 19, 2021, when VTL was first announced, with global arrivals of inbound flights to Singapore hovering between 5% and 10% of 2019 levels.

Nancy Dai, ForwardKeys insights expert, described monthly usage from August to October as “stable and encouraging”: Inbound airline tickets issued for arrivals in Singapore in August were 107% of July; September emissions were 108 percent from August; and October’s emissions were 285 percent of September’s.

Reservations from the US, UK and Australia led the recovery, Dai observed. In October, flight arrivals from the United States increased 13-fold, while the United Kingdom and Australia improved 8.6 times and 3.6 times.

Further defining the inbound booking profile, ForwardKeys noted that 28% of flight arrivals to Singapore in November and December are for one person per booking, 31% for two people and 41% for more than three.

The leisure segment dominates the profile of travelers on flights on the books for the period of November and December, accounting for 67% of the total – unchanged from the pre-pandemic in 2019. However, the Visit Friends & Parents and Expatriate segments swelled to 14%, up from 3% during the same period in 2019.

The average length of stay fell from 6.5 days before the pandemic to 11.7 days, with arrivals from Australia averaging 7.3 days and arrivals from the United States and Europe 18 days.

The bulk of bookings were made directly with airlines, at 61%, up from 17% in 2019. – Additional reports by Karen Yue

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