Singapore, Hong Kong Plan To Launch Air Travel Bubble in November

Hong Kong hopes it could launch an air travel bubble with ASEAN member state Singapore in November to re-launch tourism between the two countries, while it is also in talks for a similar travel measure with another ASEAN nation, Thailand, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan told CNBC on 2 November.

“We’re working hard with the Singaporean government,” Chan told CNBC, adding that “The target is to launch this as soon as possible within November, and the earlier, the better.”

Hong Kong is in discussions with another 10 countries about the possibility to launch bilateral air travel bubbles for leisure travel, including with Thailand, the financial secretary noted.

Singapore has opened its borders for tourists from New Zealand and Brunei, countries that have managed to put the coronavirus under control.

Hong Kong and Singapore announced in the middle of October their intention to create the air travel bubble in November, which triggered an immediate release of pent-up demand for travel, research from travel analytics company Forward Keys showed on 5 November.

In the week following the announcement on 15 October, flight searches for travel from Singapore to Hong Kong, which had been flat since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, soared to 50 percent of 2019 levels, while tickets issued jumped by 30 percent, ForwardKeys said. Travellers are mostly interested in travelling around the Christmas period and the vast majority of people, more than 80 percent, will be travelling for leisure or to visit friends and relatives, the research showed. The immediate uplift in flight bookings from Singapore to Hong Kong is more than three times higher than in the opposite direction, according to ForwardKeys’ data.  

“This bilateral Air Travel Bubble is a milestone arrangement as it will be the first-moment international leisure travel is permitted again in our region. The immediate rush in flight searches and issued tickets is significant because it proves that people want to travel and they will travel, as soon as the right safety protocols are put in place and government-imposed travel restrictions are lifted,” Jameson Wong, APAC Director at ForwardKeys, commented.