SINGAPORE: The news that the long-delayed air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong, which is set to launch on May 26, has already attracted interest from prospective passengers looking to travel between the two cities.
Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific, one of two airlines chosen to operate flights for the air travel bubble, said it has seen a “very positive response” to the announcement on Monday (Apr 26).
“Seats on our air travel bubble flights are selling fast, while some of the flights are sold out,” said a Cathay Pacific spokesperson.
Checks on the website of national carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) - the other airline operating flights for the air travel bubble - showed that flights from Singapore to Hong Kong on May 26 were sold out on Monday evening, as were subsequent travel bubble flights until Jun 4.
One travel agency, Dynasty Travel, has already received enquiries from customers who are “already vaccinated and are keen to travel to Hong Kong once the borders are open”, said the firm’s director of public relations and communications Alicia Seah.
“The official announcement of the resumption of the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB) certainly spells optimistic news for the gradual resumption of cross-border travel,” said Chan Brothers Travel senior marketing communications manager Jeremiah Wong.
“With stricter conditions and more stringent public health protocols that are going to be introduced by the two governments of Singapore and Hong Kong in relation to the ATB, it is in line with travellers' consideration, and likely to give confidence to Singaporeans, in resuming leisure travel in a vigilant manner,” Mr Wong added.
“We are very hopeful that the bubble can resume smoothly, given Singapore and Hong Kong's efforts in contact tracing and containing the spread,” said a spokesperson for Nam Ho Travel, adding that Singapore’s vaccination programme is likely to help ease the opening of borders.
The resumption of the travel bubble will “definitely attract” corporate travellers as well as those wishing to visit friends and family, said Ms Seah of Dynasty Travel.
Leisure travellers however are likely to consider factors such as price and availability of tickets, she added.
“For tour packages, we must ensure that theme parks and attractions be open so travellers can enjoy their holiday,” she said, noting that attractions such as Hong Kong Disneyland are currently allowing only up to 75 per cent of their usual visitor capacity, and are closed twice a week.
Dynasty’s tour packages - which include the cost of airfare, accommodation and tickets to attractions - start from S$1,388, noted Ms Seah.
Meanwhile, Chan Brothers Travel will monitor tourism trends as well as updates regarding hygiene protocols and flight operations.
The company will also work with its partners in the development and marketing of “new enhanced Hong Kong offerings”, said Mr Wong.
“We will be paying particular focus on Hong Kong's great outdoors and exemplary accommodation providers amongst other elements of the whole holiday experience,” he added.
Nam Ho Travel said it is currently in the midst of planning tour packages, noting that many Hong Kong hotels are “keen to collaborate” to fill up their rooms.
“Due to the limited flights as well as overwhelming demand right now, we are tentatively selling only hotel packages without airfare,” said the company’s spokesperson.
Nam Ho noted it is hoping to proceed with packages it had planned for the initial rollout of the travel bubble, which would have cost between S$329 and S$628 without airfare.
"We are in the middle of re-negotiation for rates right now, therefore we are not sure whether the same rates will still apply," said the spokesperson.
She said hotels have given Nam Ho “special promotions”, adding that the agency is in talks with airlines regarding airfare.
“We predict the airfare to be higher for the first two weeks of the ATB launch, as demand will far outweigh supply,” she said, noting there may be Hong Kong people residing in Singapore who might wish to go home without having to go through quarantine.
Should the travel bubble be successful, airfares are likely to be more stable in about two months, as more flights are added and more visitors allowed, the spokesperson noted.
Last November, flights between Hong Kong and Singapore on both SIA and Cathay Pacific were sold out within hours of the initial announcement of the travel arrangement.
The two cities had announced Monday that a travel bubble, which was originally scheduled to begin in November but had been delayed following a spike of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, would now begin next month.
The travel bubble places no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirements for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship. However, visitors to the two cities will have to take pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 swab tests and travel on designated flights, among other safety measures.