Government AffairsHKTB eases social restrictions for tours, while STB ups activity group sizes to 20 starting 1 November.

Hong Kong, Singapore relax tour operating restrictions

Singapore tour participants still have to stick to sub-groups of five, maintain safe distancing from other sub-groups, and keep overall activity time to eight hours.
Singapore tour participants still have to stick to sub-groups of five, maintain safe distancing from other sub-groups, and keep overall activity time to eight hours. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/Rawpixel

Barely a week after both governments announced the launch of an air travel bubble between the two cities, Singapore and Hong Kong this week have simultaneously announced relaxed guidelines for tour operators.

Singapore, starting 1 November, will allow tour group sizes to expand from 10 to 20 – excluding the guide – although some restrictions remain.

Participants for walking, cycling and kayaking tours must still partake in the activities in sub-groups of five – the prevailing limit for social groups, said Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in a 19 October statement. Also, interactions are allowed only within the sub-group, while all other groups of five have to maintain a safe distance of at least 1 metre to avoid intermingling.

As well, the overall activity time must be kept within eight hours. Masks must be donned by all involved participants, including tourists, guides and drivers, at all times, while portable audio tour guide systems or its equivalent must be used.

Regular measures such as contact tracing measures are still mandatory, while use of the TraceTogether app or token is encouraged. Tour agencies are also expected to implement rigorous cleaning and disinfecting regimes, particularly for high-touch elements such as tour equipment and conveyance. STB’s full assessment checklist can be found here.

Travel agencies and tour operators will now also be able to resume on-site operations, subject to prevailing guidelines from Singapore Ministry of Manpower on the requirements for Safe Management Measures at the workplace. All businesses must also submit their manpower details via the GoBusiness portal within two weeks of reopening.

Other areas that require STB’s approval for resumptions include tours with live or pre-recorded components, as well as tour itineraries. The latter may only resume upon the green light from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

In a sign that signals the start of the gradual recovery for international travel in Singapore, the Ministry of Health on 20 October announced that Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders who travelled out of the country on or after 27 March 2021 will be able to claim insurance coverage or government subsidies, should they confirm diagnosis of Covid-19 upon return.

This was previously only applicable for those who travelled on permitted trips such as green lane arrangements, or students doing full-time overseas studies.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has announced that tours in the city will be exempted from social distancing restrictions, in what the tourism body believes is a critical step to help pave the way to industry recovery.

To expedite that process, HKTB launched the Free Tour programme, where local residents will receive a complimentary local tour with any spend of at least HK$800 (US$103) at physical retail and dining stores. Information on the approximately 50 free tour itineraries will be uploaded onto the campaign website on 27 October. Each half day tour will include a guide, return transportation, one meal and basic insurance.

For this initiative, tour agencies developed “interesting immersive tours for the programme, as well as taking the effort to implement hygiene measures in compliance to the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong's Anti-epidemic Undertakings for Local Tours to give local residents greater confidence in joining the programme,” said HKTB chairman, Dr YK Pang.

Earlier this month, the HKTB also rolled out its tourism hygiene standards in partnership with the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency.

This is on top of the Holiday at Home campaign launched earlier in June, which Pang says has received positive feedback. According to the tourism body chairman, these announcements will together “strike a balance between epidemic prevention and tourism recovery. By operating local tours, the travel trade can resume business and warm up for receiving visitors once it is possible.”

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