Slowly but surely is clearly the approach Singapore has been undertaking so far to plot the country's safe return to travel in the post-pandemic world.
The latest? A new business travel pass is currently being piloted for senior executives in Singapore, which will enable them to travel overseas regularly on this pass for official and business purpose.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Health, travellers on this pass – which is not country specific – have to abide by a strict controlled itinerary when they are abroad for work. Upon their return, they have to either undergo a stay-home notice or take a Covid-19 test and self-isolate until the test results are out.
By supporting essential business travel, along with the government's latest announcement to allow more people to return to their workplaces from September 28, is a note of encouragement for the travel sector.
"The demand of travel is growing and many corporate clients are waiting for borders to open up so they may start travelling for their business needs. We have quite a number of clients who have asked about the travel pass," says Charles Tan, managing director of Pegasus Travel Management.
The pass, however, does not equate to an open invitation for business executives to start travelling again, Tan adds. For starters, he believes that the pass will likely be rolled out on a by-invite basis for "a very small group of high-level business people" to help the government monitor the feasibility of wider implementation.
Although questions still surround the actual implementation of the pass, Steven Ler, executive director, head of travel at UOB Travel Planners, believes that this initiative helps to "open up a safe travel reopening pathway based on destinations".
Like the various pilots that Singapore government has rolled out since emerging from lockdown in June, including the green lanes established with countries including Malaysia, Brunei, South Korea, Japan and six regions in China, Singapore’s safe and calibrated approach to reopening travel is built upon “testing” and “proof of concept”, adds Ler, who is also president of National Association of Travel Agents Singapore.
Elevated role of travel managers
The complexity and unpredictability of overseas travel during the pandemic has made travel risk management even more important than ever before. The role of the travel agent, says Ler, is critical to consolidate the ever-changing information and help customers navigate the labyrinth of complex post- pandemic travel rules.
UOB Travel Planner, for instance, has rolled out a Travel Care Management tool to provide a full end-to-end solution for travellers, including offering Covid-19 insurance for outbound travellers to approved destinations and working with airports in the region to “bubble wrap” travellers through the entire travel journey. "We are taking preemptive steps to manage customer needs,” Ler adds.
It's a similar story at Pegasus Travel, which has been investing to bolster its capabilities to support its clientele with more advanced systems including duty of care systems. "We have also explored the possible test centres in Singapore and is looking at helping our clientele bubble wrap the entire trip in future," says Tan.