Singapore International Travel
International Travel Restarts in Singapore with Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL).
As with many geographical regions that have been affected by the global pandemic over the past two years, Southeast Asia nations including Singapore have been hit badly not only by the loss of business opportunities and tourism dollars but also the drop in meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions activities, or (MICE). Singapore which prides itself as a regional hub appears to be the worse off especially since it is such a small country with no domestic travel.
For Singapore, a low-lying city state and small island without any natural resources that’s one fifth the land area of Rhode Island, international business linkages and MICE have always been important considerations in the country’s development over the past half century. To restart international travel, Singapore has encouraged all residents to be fully vaccinated and introduced vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) with various countries to allow for quarantine-free travel. As of December 2021, more than 90% of the population have been fully vaccinated and VTLs have been opened with close to 30 countries.
However, due to the Omicron variant which is rapidly spreading globally, Singapore had to suspend all VTLs for a month which has once again affected international travel. If there is a risk in being stranded overseas, mass tourism is still a long way off. According to press reports, VTLs will be the economic lifeline in 2022 for Singapore as the easing of border controls is crucial in keeping the country open to foreign visitors though on and off freezing of these quarantine-free VTLs does pose a problem to local industry sectors. Nose swabs, use of trace app and mask wearing are all VTLs requirements.
During the last quarter of 2021, various MICE events such as the Singapore International Energy Week, Bloomberg New Economy Forum and the ITAP 2021 manufacturing trade show took place for the first time since early 2020 and vaccinated participants could attend in person. Even though there was a maximum number of attendees at any one time, they could move around relatively freely and there was no outbreak of covid from these events. These MICE events are seen as a steppingstone for bigger and more in person events in 2022 as Singapore looks to opening the hospitality sector further.
For 2020, the number of visitors to Singapore was around 2.7 million but for 2021, it dropped to just less than 300,000 where approximately half visited during last two months of the year after the launch of the VTLs. Singapore Changi Airport which used to be one of the busiest airports in Asia indicated that they had close to 70 million passenger movements in 2019 but it is only around 5% for 2020-21 combined. Many Singaporeans are also ready to travel again but they are somewhat hesitant due to the changing travel restrictions.
Both Delta Airlines and United Airlines have announced that they are introducing VTL flights to Singapore – Delta in code share with Korean Air Lines via Seoul and United, a nonstop flight from San Francisco to Singapore. In addition, Singapore Airlines also has nonstop VTL flights to Los Angeles, New York and Seattle. Royal Caribbean have been organizing cruise to nowhere from Singapore for now and all passengers must be vaccinated.
For more information, please contact Mr. CHAN Yiu Kei.