Singapore’s “vaccinated itineraries” are fueling the search for Expedia flights

Singapore’s new “vaccinated itineraries” sparked a spate of flight inquiries as city-state residents seek to take advantage of the easing of international travel policies.

The search for cities within the so-called VTLs of Singapore has doubled – and in some cases almost tripled, according to the Expedia Group. It came after government officials announced the opening of new quarantine-free travel routes to countries in Europe, North America and Asia.

Facilitate international travel

Last week, Singapore announced quarantine-free trips to Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain and the USA from October 19 – as well as South Korea from November 15, and must be vaccinated before entering the country. 19 undergoing tests to make sure they are not infected.

With the announcement, the island state’s VTL program, which currently includes Germany and Brunei, has been significantly expanded.

According to the news, the search interest of Singapore residents increased from week to week:

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

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

Visitors walk through a terminal at Singapore Changi Airport on December 7, 2020.

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“The VTLs definitely have an impact on how people think about travel, where they want to go and how they plan their trip,” Choo Pin Ang told CNBC’s Capital Connection on Tuesday.

However, he added that he expects more traditional destinations to gain popularity as further easing is announced. Search queries in Singapore for year-end trips to both VTL and non-VTL destinations from June to October have already tripled.

I don’t think we’re going to go back to a regressive lockdown and people won’t be able to travel

Amit saber whale

Founder and CEO, Reddoorz

This is good news for the ailing travel industry. On Wednesday, Singapore Airlines’ share price rose more than 9% over the course of the week, while shares of SATS – the ground and board food service provider at Singapore Changi Airport – rose about 5%.

“It’s happy days again,” Amit Saberwal, founder and CEO of the Southeast Asian budget hotel chain RedDoorz, told CNBC on Wednesday. “Although it’s still in its infancy, I don’t think we’ll go back to a regressive lockdown and people won’t be able to travel … I think it’s our moment to shine again.”

Headwind remains

More quarantine-free itineraries are expected in the coming months, including some in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Singapore officials.

Australia, New Zealand and Japan are likely to be there, as are some “homeland” countries in Southeast Asia, Ang said.

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

“What will really determine whether VTLs can work are the strong economic ties between Singapore and these countries, vaccination rates and the progress that countries have made in containing Covid,” he said.

Headwind still remains. With travel restrictions evolving and the daily VTL arrivals in Singapore currently capped at 3,000, travelers should be “nimble” by making flexible bookings and purchasing travel insurance including Covid before departure.

– Shubhangi Goel contributed to this report.

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