‘Grafted Travel Lanes’ in Singapore: Requests for Expedia Flights Soar

New “vaccinated travel stripes” in Singapore have sparked a flurry of requests for flights as city-state residents seek to take advantage of the relaxation of international travel measures.

According to Expedia Group, the number of searches in Singapore’s so-called VTLs has doubled, and in some cases almost tripled. This came after government officials announced the opening of new routes for non-quarantine travel to countries in Europe, North America and Asia.

Facilitation of international travel

Last week, Singapore has announced quarantine-free travel with Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States starting October 19, and South Korea from November 15. Among the conditions, travelers must be vaccinated and tested for Covid-19 to make sure they are not infected before entering the country.

The announcement marked a significant expansion of the island nation’s VTL program, which currently includes Germany and Brunei.

After this news, the search interest of Singaporeans increased weekly:

  • Seoul, South Korea – 180%
  • Vancouver, Canada – 160%
  • Frankfurt, Germany – 130%
  • London, UK – 120%
  • Los Angeles, USA – 80%

Expedia’s managing director for Asia said searches indicate a shift in consumer demand for international travel. In August, the most popular cities in Singapore were regional hotspots such as Japan, Hong Kong, Maldives and Taiwan.

Visitors walk through Singapore’s Changi Airport terminal on December 7, 2020.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

“VTL has definitely influenced the way people think about travel, where they want to go and how they plan their travels,” Chu Ping Ang told CNBC Capital Connection on Tuesday.

However, he added that he expects the popularity of more traditional travel destinations to rise as further easing is announced. End-of-year Singapore travel requests for both VTL and non-VTL destinations have already tripled from June to October.

I don’t think we will go back to regressive isolation and people not being able to travel.

Amit Saberwal

Founder and CEO of Reddoorz

This is good news for the affected travel industry. As of Wednesday, Singapore Airlines’ share price rose more than 9% on the week, while SATS, which provides ground and in-flight catering services at Singapore’s Changi Airport, surged about 5%.

“The happy days are here again,” Amit Saberwal, founder and CEO of Southeast Asia’s budget hotel chain RedDoorz, told CNBC on Wednesday. “Even though these are early days, I don’t think we’re going to go back to regressive isolation and people unable to travel … I think this is our moment to shine again.”

The headwind remains

New routes without quarantine are expected to emerge in the coming months, including in the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore officials said.

According to Ang, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are likely to be included, as well as some “closer to home” countries in Southeast Asia.

Thailand on Monday announced plans to lift quarantine restrictions from November on vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries, including Singapore.

“What will really determine if VTL can work is the strong economic ties between Singapore and these countries, the level of vaccinations and how far countries have come in the fight against Covid,” he said.

Nevertheless, the headwind remains. With travel restrictions changed and VTL’s daily arrivals to Singapore limited to 3,000, Eng said travelers need to “be nimble” by making flexible reservations and purchasing travel insurance that includes Covid before leaving.

– Shubhangi Goel contributed to this report.

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