Nearly half a year after its original launch date, the long-awaited Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble has finally received the approval from both governments to go ahead on 26 May 2021.
According to a 26 April statement by Singapore's Ministry of Transport, the travel bubble will have a cautious start, with just one flight a day in each direction and passengers capped at 200 passengers on each flight for the first two weeks. These designated flights will be stepped up to two per day from 10 June if the Covid-19 situation remains stable, with another increase by 26 June should both cities report no further outbreaks say an anonymous source in a Straits Times report.
Subject to stricter conditions than ever before, the air travel bubble has to be suspended for two weeks when the seven-day moving average of the unlinked community cases in either city exceeds five; it can resume only when the Covid-19 situation has stabilised.
Hong Kong passport holders leaving the territory are also required to must be fully vaccinated before taking the bubble flights, although this vaccination requirement will not apply to Singapore citizens and others using non-Hong Kong travel documents for departure.
As previously agreed under the original deal, passengers from both sides have to test negative for Covid-19 prior to boarding the direct flights.
Furthermore, travellers must have remained in either Singapore or Hong Kong in the 14 days prior to departure, and the 14-day period cannot include any time spent in quarantine or under stay-home notice due to their last return to Singapore or Hong Kong from overseas.
Proceeding with cautious optimism
After the failed take-off attempt, Lucy Jackson, co-founder and director of Lightfoot Travel, noted that clients are adopting a slight “wait and see” attitude towards the bubble, in the event that there are any issues which prevent it from going through as happened in 2020.
Jackson is hopeful that as both cities move to vaccinate their populations, the easing of travel restrictions "would give people greater confidence to book future travel.
In anticipation of the bubble launch, the luxury travel agency has, meanwhile, spent the past few months refining its existing relationships with the top hotels and partners in both cities to come out with offerings "that are slightly off-the-beaten-path for those looking to do more than the typical guidebook activities".
Meanwhile, Mandarin Oriental properties in Singapore and Hong Kong will be creating online landing pages highlighting special offers to cross promote each other, Louisa Wu, area director of commerce at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong told Travel Weekly Asia.
Besides working closely with Hong Kong Tourism Board and Singapore Tourism Board to promote this travel bubble, Wu said the group will be working alongside luxury agents such as American Express as well as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines on a flight and hotel bundled offer.
"Considering Singapore travellers need to take four Covid tests, including one before he or she departs and once again before their return flight, we feel that this will be booked for essential business travel and family visits initially," she remarked.