SINGAPORE: Flight and tour bookings from Singapore to Australia have not been affected by the bushfires that have ravaged the country's Southeastern coast, according to tour operators CNA spoke to on Friday (Jan 3).
None of the 1,074 travellers that went with Dynasty Travel during the peak holiday season in November and December cancelled their trips to New South Wales and Victoria, said Ms Alicia Seah, the director of public relations and communications at the travel agency.
About 40 people have booked trips with Dynasty Travel to visit New South Wales and Victoria this month and the tour operator has yet to receive any cancellations, she added.
The agency has seen a drop of about 30 to 40 per cent in the number of enquiries for March holiday bookings to the area as families take a “wait and see approach”, she said, adding that the travel agency normally receives about five to 10 queries for Australian tours every day.
The agency will cancel tours only if the destination’s airport is not in operation, said Ms Seah.
In areas with air pollution, the guide may issue masks or cancel visits to outdoor sites if there are calls from local authorities to evacuate or avoid the area.
Indoor programmes, such as visits to museums and shopping malls, will be arranged instead.
If customers choose to opt out of their holiday, her team will “offer their full assistance” to see if airlines and hotels will allow reservations to be postponed or refunded, she said.
Similarly, Chan Brothers said that although some groups in Australia had to hold off plans to visit the Hunter Valley region, no customers had cancelled their bookings to Australia in November and December last year.
There were "only a handful of calls" asking if the itinerary would be affected by the bushfires, the tour operator said.
A Jetabout Holidays spokesperson said that out of almost 1,000 bookings to Australia in December, about 10 customers cancelled.
The holiday agencies recommended that potential travellers keep track of bushfire updates on the Australia tourism website and MyFireWatch - a map that provides the locations of bushfires - and look out for advisories published on the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) website.
Singaporeans are also recommended to e-register with MFA and record their travel itinerary with the ministry in case of an emergency.
Since September last year, bushfires in the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria have claimed at least 18 lives. Dozens more are missing and tens of thousands have been forced to evacuate.
The wildfires have ravaged some of the country’s most popular tourism spots, including the Blue Mountains in New South Wales and East Gippsland in Victoria.
Smoke from the bushfires has blanketed the major cities of Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, causing air quality conditions to plummet across the urban centres.
On Friday, the Singapore High Commission in Canberra told Singaporeans in Australia "to exercise vigilance" and stay up to date on the crisis due to the "fast changing bushfire and air quality situation".
NO IMPACT ON FLIGHTS, INSURANCE CLAIMS
Singapore Airlines said it has not seen a significant change in the demand for travel to Australia, and budget carrier Scoot said there has been no “noticeable increase” in flight cancellations to Australia so far.
Insurers Etiqa said they did not observe a spike in claims from customers who had travelled to Australia.
Customers can file a claim with Etiqa if MFA issues an advisory to defer non-essential travel to the planned destination, the company added.
Insurance company AXA said it has not received any claims arising from the bushfires.
Given that a state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales, the company will process trip cancellation claims if the customer has to cancel any part of the trip within 30 days before the departure date due to the crisis.
Several insurance companies have stated in their clauses that they will not cover "known events" - or well-publicised incidents - such as the Hong Kong protests. In these cases, the insurers will not process claims arising from these events if they happened before the customer bought the policy.