DestinationsPassengers disappointed over delay in launching bubble flights, but where was demand coming from?

Travel hopes dashed as Hong Kong-Singapore bubble put on hold

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The no-quarantine travel agreement between Singapore and Hong Kong is now delayed by at least two weeks. Photo Credit: Getty Images/allensima

The much-anticipated Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble, which was supposed to launch on 22 November, has been postponed for at least two weeks after a spike in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Singapore's Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said he has held discussions with Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau about the travel bubble.

"Given the evolving situation in Hong Kong, Secretary Edward Yau and I discussed further this afternoon and decided that it would be better to defer the launch of the air travel bubble by two weeks," Ong wrote. "We will review within two weeks on the new launch date and update again."

Among the passengers booked for the inaugural bubble flight from Singapore is Aaron Wong, founder of frequent flier website Milelion. He had booked three separate hotels in Hong Kong to check out and review the travel bubble arrangements.

He wrote on his website that he was "disappointed" that the inaugural flight did not come to pass but understood that "it’s probably the right call to make at the moment".

Who were booking these bubble flights?

Prior to the Saturday announcement of the air travel bubble suspension, travel industry players that Travel Weekly Asia spoke to had reported an incremental uptake on travel between both cities.

In Hong Kong, Holiday World Tours has issued tickets to Singapore mostly for business and FIT travellers, but pricing was the top concern among people enquiring about the bubble flights.

"Flight tickets are really expensive at the moment as there’s more demand than supply. However, there are great deals on room packages," said Paul Leung, managing director of Holiday World Tours.

"Many bookings are one way, with the flexibility to decide their return date after arrival, it’s likely that travellers might think about extension for a personal trip after business meetings, and possibly have relatives and friends in both cities."

Connexus Travel has also received an increased number of inquiries, as well as leisure travellers who were planning to spend the festive season in Singapore. In the last two weeks, Connexus Travel has launched a series of Singapore travel packages with select hotel offers and day tours.

“Singapore is a major business hub for our clients and we’re receiving enquiries from both corporate and leisure segments. Many individual travellers are returning for VFR travel (visiting friends and relatives),” shared CEO Gloria Slethaug.

She added, “While there is an increase in flight bookings, most are for business, family visits or studies. With the travel restrictions still in place, we expect travel could still be quite limited over the holiday periods.”

Meanwhile, industry players are still holding out to see how the travel bubble agreement will impact the future travel demand between the two cities.

Alec Ho, head of corporate, MICE & inbound tours at Wing On Travel stated, “It is still too early to tell and difficult to judge the demand because of the limited supply of flights. Airlines are also only issuing individual tickets, not even for small groups. Most organisers are proceeding with caution, and waiting to see how things will pan out."

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