'All eyes' on the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble as other Asian countries prepare for more, bookings firm says

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SINGAPORE — The world will be watching closely to see if the quarantine-free travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong will succeed, according to one of the region’s major travel operators Klook.

“All eyes are on this bubble, making sure that it’s going to get pulled off,” Eric Gnock Fah, co-founder and chief operating officer of travel bookings platform Klook, told CNBC Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s highly-anticipated launch.

If successful, he’s optimistic that there will be more of such travel bubbles in the region.

Specially designated “air travel bubble” flights between Hong Kong and Singapore are due to begin on Nov. 22 after further details were released last week, which will see travelers switch quarantine for testing.

As this bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore starts becoming a bit more stable, we should be expecting more travel bubbles to open on that front.
Eric Gnock Fah
Co-founder and COO, Klook

Following the announcement, Gnock Fah said tourism authorities across the region had been reaching out to make plans for additional travel agreements, should they be made.

“Once this news came out, actually many of the other tourism boards around Asia have been very active coming to us to discuss about the plans that they have put in place,” said Gnock Fah.

“As this bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore starts becoming a bit more stable, we should be expecting more travel bubbles to open on that front. We’re quite optimistic on that front,” he added.

Travel searches soar

Klook, which manages in-destination bookings like hotels and experiences, saw searches for the respective destinations surge more than 8 times on the day of the announcement.

Travelers from Singapore proved particularly restless, he noted, with travel searches from the tiny city-state up 8-10 times versus 3-5 times in Hong Kong.

Singapore Airlines crew members arrive to board the plane for the inaugural lunch at Restaurant A380 @Changi onboard a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 plane at Changi International Airport in Singapore on October 24, 2020.
ROSLAN RAHMAN | AFP | Getty Images

Travelers on both sides were equally keen to offset heightened airfares and testing costs with longer stays, Gnock Fah said, pointing out that it marked a departure from pre-Covid preferences for long-weekend stays. In-destination operators like hotels aim to capture this trend with continued discounting, he added.

The travel and tourism industry received a further boon this past week as promising vaccine announcements from Pfizer and Moderna signaled optimism for a resumption of international travel in 2021.

“Travel companies, the tourism boards are getting very busy to make sure we capture this pent-up demand when it comes,” Gnock Fah said.

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