From October 19, Singapore will operate vaccinated travel lanes with the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Denmark and Spain. This will follow a month of quarantine-free travel with Germany and Brunei.
A similar reciprocal arrangement will begin on November 15 for vaccinated holiday-makers between Singapore and South Korea.
This week the first international flights since the pandemic began will arrive in Bali as Indonesia begins opening up. Malaysia has also set out its plans to restart international tourism.
Much of Europe and the United States are already open. By the time Australia puts out the welcome mat many, particularly in Singapore, will have already bought tickets to other destinations.
There are only 5.4 million Singaporeans, but they love to travel and in 2019 they made 18.4 million outbound trips. Most of these were in Asia. The hope was a Singapore-Australia bubble would have enabled Australia to pick up some of the 16 per cent of those trips made to a still largely closed north Asia. These hopes are fading
“As that pent-up demand reduces, so will the number of opportunities to convert,” said Brent Anderson, regional general manager for Tourism Australia in Singapore.
Some Singaporeans who had never thought of travelling to Germany before had gone in the last month, simply because they could. Now, with France, Italy and Spain also possible, Europe is likely to increase its share of trips from Singapore, he said.
Airlines in Singapore reported a rush of inquiries after the vaccinated travel lane scheme was extended on Saturday. The Singapore Airlines website crashed briefly that day while people queued at the airline’s service centre at Ion Orchard.
A limit of 3000 arrivals in Singapore per day may mean some will miss out on their preferred dates, airlines warned.
Singapore Airlines cancelled a slew of flights to Australia last month, saying it would not reinstate them until the cap on passenger arrivals was lifted. This is likely to occur when vaccinated Australians are allowed to isolate at home.
Both Qantas and Singapore Airlines are ready to schedule more flights when two-way, quarantine-free travel is finally given the green light. Qantas is already taking bookings for flights from Singapore from December 18.
Other prerequisites are also in place. The two governments have, for example, agree to use international vaccine certificates stored in a barcode system promoted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. This can be either paper or screen-based and uses some security technology employed in the ePassport system already in use in 145 countries.
On Sunday, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced fully vaccinated Malaysians and their children will be allowed to travel domestically and overseas.
Those who leave the country will still be subject to a 14-day quarantine that applies to all international arrivals, but Malaysians – unlike Australians – no longer have to apply for permission to go overseas.
Similar to Singapore, Malaysia plans a selective return to international tourism that will be limited to particular countries. Mr Ismail promised an announcement would be made soon about these bilateral arrangements.
Indonesia is continuing to refine its plans. So far six countries – China, South Korea, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand – are expected to begin flying to Bali again, with the first flights landing on Thursday.
International arrivals will be required to quarantine at selected hotels. The numbers are expected to rise slowly, with resident visa holders ahead of tourists in the queue.