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Travel agencies expect more enquiries for trips to Germany after announcement of vaccinated travel lane

Travel agencies expect more enquiries for trips to Germany after announcement of vaccinated travel lane

Singapore Airlines planes pictured on the tarmac at Changi Airport. (File photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: Travel agencies expect to receive more enquiries for travel to Germany and some are planning to offer new packages, following the announcement of the quarantine-free vaccinated travel lane. 

​​The travel lane with Germany “certainly spells good news” for the tourism industry, said senior marketing communications manager of Chan Brothers Travel Jeremiah Wong, noting that there is “pent-up demand” for outbound leisure travel.

"At the current moment through our various contact points, we are seeing enquiries and interest streaming in progressively," Mr Wong told CNA.

He added that the company is working with its German partners to enhance its product and service offerings to the popular destination. It also plans to introduce seasonal specials that will appeal to Singapore travellers thinking of a winter holiday at the end of the year.

How the new vaccinated travel lanes work

Singapore will launch its first vaccinated travel lanes with Germany and Brunei on Sep 8.

Fully vaccinated travellers departing from Germany or Brunei can enter Singapore without serving a stay-home notice. They will instead undergo multiple COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. 

Travellers do not need to follow a controlled itinerary or have a sponsor, but they must have remained in Singapore or their country of departure – Germany or Brunei – in the last 21 consecutive days before they depart for Singapore. 

The vaccinated travel lanes are unilateral measures, which means they only apply to travellers entering Singapore from Brunei or Germany. Entry to the two countries will depend on the restrictions in those areas. 

Germany lifted all entry restrictions for all Singapore residents as of Oct 27, 2020, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) website. 

Currently, people can travel from Singapore to Germany without restrictions on vaccination status and quarantine requirements. They must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result carried out within 72 hours before their arrival in Germany, the website stated.

This means that with the vaccinated travel lane, quarantine-free travel will be possible in both directions.

But for Brunei, travellers from Singapore can only enter via the reciprocal green lane arrangement, which will cease on Aug 20. 

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The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) expects an increase in enquiries as well, especially for year-end vacations to Germany, said the group's president Steven Ler.

“Many factors do come into play affecting the actual buying patterns of different travel personas. In addition, we do not dismiss the possibility of reopening of more countries under the VTL (vaccinated travel lane) in the upcoming months which means travellers may enjoy more travel options,” he added. 

OPPORTUNITIES FOR TRAVEL AGENCIES

Despite the option of quarantine-free travel, agencies CNA spoke to say most leisure travellers are likely to weigh their decisions to travel based on several factors, due to the continued risk of COVID-19 globally.

“In the beginning, we expect most leisure travellers will carefully weigh their decisions to travel based on considerations such as aversion to perceived risk, health and safety concerns, and any additional costs involved etc amongst others,” said Chan Brothers’ Mr Wong. 

"Some leisure travellers may adopt a more measured wait-and-see approach as more information about attractions and public health and safe travel protocols of the destination in question becomes clearer and more available."

Ms Stella Chow, a senior marketing manager at Hong Thai Travel agreed, adding that the agency has not seen a spike in enquiries.

It is preparing for group tours to Germany, as well as other destinations like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Canada, where the COVID-19 situation is relatively stable. 

“We will focus on Germany group tours, for departure in October onwards, promoting (the) autumn season and winter season in December. We feel that leisure travellers may choose year-end tours,” she told CNA. 

With the need to keep tabs on ever-changing COVID-19 measures, border restrictions and uncertainties in flight or hotel bookings, agencies expect more travellers to turn to them to plan their travel needs, said Mr Ler. 

“With a good arsenal of knowledge and support network, travel agents are well-positioned to play this advisory role,” he added. 

Travel agencies can be “more important than ever”, as experts in destinations but also as sources of important COVID-19 travel information, said Mr Wong. 

“In short, we see ourselves as the new BFF of travellers who have got their back and help them manage any disruptions of their travel plans if they occur.”

AIR TRAVEL DEMAND 

Following the announcement of the vaccinated travel lanes to Germany and Brunei, Singapore Airlines said it has seen an increase in bookings.

“But it is too early to see if there is any spike in demand,” a spokesperson said.

“Singapore Airlines remains guided by regulatory requirements. We will continue to monitor the demand and be nimble in adjusting our capacity accordingly.” 

Travellers coming back to Singapore from Germany or Brunei will have to travel on non-stop designated flights run by Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa or Royal Brunei Airlines respectively. These flights will only serve travellers on the vaccinated travel lanes. 

Lufthansa will offer three weekly flights from Germany to Singapore, and two of these will be designated vaccine travel lane flights, said a spokesperson for the airline. 

“Since Singapore no longer requires quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers, it may affect demand and thus increase bookings for flights between Singapore and Germany,” said the Lufthansa spokesperson. 

“For example, visiting Germany from Singapore and then returning to Singapore is possible without meeting quarantine requirements - this makes Germany an attractive travel destination for anyone based in Singapore,” he added. 

“On the other hand, vaccinated people in Germany now are able to visit one of the most attractive cities in the world again without quarantine - that might stimulate the desire to travel to Singapore.” 

For flights to Germany, Scoot resumed its thrice-weekly flights to Berlin via Athens in early August when intra-Europe borders eased, its spokesperson told CNA. 

“Scoot will continue to monitor the situation, and be guided by regulatory requirements as we look to resume flights in a safe and calibrated manner.” 

Deputy director general of the International Air Travel Association Conrad Clifford said the vaccinated travel lanes are a “positive step in the right direction”, adding that it looks forward to the further lifting of quarantine requirements. 

“This will help with the recovery of the aviation and tourism sectors,” he added, calling on more territories to reopen their borders.

The “risk-averse zero-COVID approach” is not sustainable and is detrimental to people and economics, said Mr Clifford. 

"We have seen moves around the world to reopen borders, allow international travel, and restarting their aviation and tourism sectors. Asia Pacific risks being left behind,” he 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. I hope other Asia Pacific states will take similar steps with their borders.”

Source: CNA/hw(gs)

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