The two-week delay in launching the Singapore-Hong Kong Airline Bubble (SG-HK ATB) not only frustrated many potential travelers, but also cast a shadow over hoteliers in the city.
Hotel groups like Wharf Hotels have expressed disappointment with the postponement of ATB SG-HK. Its president, Jennifer Cronin, revealed that between their three hotels – Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel, Gateway Hotel and The Murray, Hong Kong, a Niccolo Hotel – they had received around 100 nights of reservations.
She added, “In fact, our cluster general manager for the three Marco Polo hotels, Dalip Singh, has developed some great travel stories exploring the hidden secrets of Hong Kong during our border lockdown this year, initially, for his Singapore. compatriots.
“Together with his communications team, he created a Facebook page called ‘Shiok Steady Singh’, to keep our visitors to Singapore even more informed and offer them a range of new options on their next visit.”
As the first travel bubble of its kind, the ATB SG-HK will serve as a “model for other ATBs to work,” Cronin said, adding that “a Hong Kong-Japan ATB is highly sought after by our colleagues from Hong Kong “.
However, as hoteliers see an increase in bookings from SG-HK ATB, the bilateral pact has had little impact on the activities of incoming tour operators in Hong Kong, as Singapore has been a small source market dominated by FITs. . As such, the ultimate hope for travel agents is that the city will form more bubbles with other countries in the region in the near future.
Still, Holiday World Tours General Manager Paul Leung hailed SG-HK ATB as a positive step to restart the engine of regional tourism.
Although he has only received a “handful” of group bookings, he said the arrangement “sets a good example for other destinations to follow suit and opens up more possibilities, if the concept is to be found. successfully executed “. “Frankly, it’s much better than just giving us grants,” he added.
Noting that the government is currently in talks with a dozen countries including Japan, Germany and France to establish ATB agreements, he said: “Frankly, I don’t see the long-haul traffic coming from Europe. and the United States rebound next year. Therefore, China tops our wishlist given the volume of visitors, followed by countries in Southeast Asia. “
On the other hand, Destination China has not seen any wave of impact on its business since the announcement of the bilateral air bubble pact. Its managing director and owner, Gunther Homerlein, said TTG Asia: “Before Covid, the traffic between Hong Kong and Singapore was not that high. Truth be told, cities don’t excite each other’s citizens that much.
“Travel bubbles are a start and it can help tourism, but it won’t do much for business and business travel until there are several countries on board and there will be a “green card” or a “travel code” which allows business people to travel more easily and more frequently.
According to the Hong Kong government statement, ATB has a built-in mechanism whereby the number of designated flights can be increased, decreased or even suspended, depending on the situation. If the latest seven-day moving average of the daily number of unrelated local cases exceeds five for Singapore or Hong Kong, the ATB agreement will be suspended after two days (including the day the threshold is announced) for a period of two weeks.