Singapore, Hong Kong team up for travel bubble

Tourism boards in both cities in milestone collaboration as world’s first two-way quarantine-free travel readies for launch on November 22

TOURISM boards in Hong Kong and Singapore announced yesterday that they will collaborate on the travel bubble being launched between the two cities.

The Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble is a quarantine-free arrangement and described as a milestone for the global tourism while paving the way for a safe resumption of international travel.

One flight a day into each city will start on November 22 with 200 passengers each way. The bubble will be suspended if the weekly average of new Covid cases reaches more than five in either city, but will resume if the rate lowers to five or less.

While passengers would have no restrictions on their travel purpose or subject to quarantine and a controlled itinerary, they must undergo Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests within 72 hours before boarding.

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Confirmed ticket holders in Singapore must apply for approval to have a PCR test within seven days of boarding. On arriving in Hong Kong travellers have to be tested again and remain at the testing facility until a negative test result.

Travel-agent leaders in Hong Kong told a local radio station that the limit on numbers and the rising cost of fares since plans for a bubble were announced meant there would be fewer options at this stage for group tours and packages.

The bubble was, however, regarded as a pioneering move to be watched by other destinations with tourism industry representatives telling RTHK’s Backchat programme that business travellers rather than holidaymakers will choose the flights due to the expense incurred in undergoing tests at either side.

The development is nonetheless seen as a timely marketing opportunity for Hong Kong and Singapore which have both seen tourism arrivals hit rock bottom since the pandemic.

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The partnership between HKTB and STB is also the first between the two tourism boards, showing the links between the two cities and a commitment to provide visitors with a safe travel experience.

Dane Cheng, executive director of HKTB, said: “I am excited to see the resumption of travel between Hong Kong and Singapore. It is a hugely important moment that shows the world that safe international travel is possible and paves the way for us to bring tourist flights to and from other markets.

Cheng said there was a unity among people in different sectors in stepping up hygiene measures. Offers on hotel stays, attractions, Hong Kong experiences, and other deals have been arranged to welcome visitors.

Singapore Tourism Board chief executive Keith Tan said: “The Air Travel Bubble is a significant milestone that demonstrates the deep connections and close friendship between Singapore and Hong Kong.

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“Singapore is well-equipped to handle the Covid-19 crisis, and with our strong track record, we are confident that Hong Kong travellers can explore Singapore with a peace of mind.”

Tan said Singapore’s tourism industry has reinvented its offerings with new products and experiences.

Both destinations have put in place city-wide certification programmes for hygiene and safety. The HKTB has rolled out the Anti-Epidemic Hygiene Measures Certification Scheme to ensure that every touch point of visitors’ journey is covered with anti-epidemic measures.

Singapore’s SG Clean is awarded to businesses across Singapore that meet high national standards for hygiene and sanitisation.

Both tourism boards will also undertake joint promotional activities as part of the partnership.

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