Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble a positive sign for MICE

Rapid testing will replace quarantine and travel restrictions between the two business hubs.

Business between Asia's two global hubs set to kick-start amid travel-bubble talks that will do away with quarantine.
Business between Asia's two global hubs set to kick-start amid travel-bubble talks that will do away with quarantine.

Months after initial talks of a travel bubble, Singapore and Hong Kong residents will soon be able to resume flights without serving quarantines or stay-at-home notices — a positive step forward to reigniting their MICE sectors.

Details are currently being worked out, but it is expected that the in-principle air travel bubble agreement could take off as soon as in a couple of weeks, according to local media reports.

This milestone arrangement is expected to "help revive cross-border air travel between the two aviation hubs, in a safe and progressive way", according to a recent statement from the Singapore Ministry of Transport.

Under this bilateral agreement, there will be no restrictions on travel purpose, while travellers will not be subject to any quarantines or controlled itinerary.

Travellers, however, will need to test negative on mutually recognised Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. They will also be required to travel on flights dedicated for those travelling under the bubble.

Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) chairman, Stuart Bailey, says the announcement is "a step in the right direction" for the recovery of regional meetings and events.

"Hopefully the Hong Kong–Singapore trial will prove successful and a similar scheme can be used to open up air travel bubbles with other important cities," he said. "Hong Kong is an important international hub for meetings, conferences and exhibitions, in order for these events to be successful it is imperative that we can freely welcome participants from all over the world."

Bailey added: "Singapore is an important market and, similar to Hong Kong, acts as a trading hub for the region. Hong Kong exports to Singapore were US$10.77 billion during 2019, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade (6% of GDP). This makes Singapore an important market, however, one swallow does not a summer make."

Travel readies for rebound

News of a potential travel bubble comes on the back of positive announcements from both governments in their gradual resumption of travel.

Singapore, for instance, has given the green light for short cruises to nowhere to resume, with offerings from Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises in November and December respectively.

While the leisure market is the immediate focus, Dream Cruises president and head of international sales, Genting Cruise Lines, Michael Goh, said meetings and incentive groups haven't been forgotten.

Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), meanwhile, in early October announced the launch of the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency, a standardised hygiene protocol for tourism and MICE-related businesses that is aimed to bolster visitors’ confidence in travelling to the city.