Having first announced plans for a bilateral travel bubble in mid-October, in an attempt to repair some of the damage caused by the pandemic to their tourism and aviation industries, Hong Kong and Singapore have now confirmed this will begin on 22 November. From this date there will be a quarantine-free leisure travel bubble between the two cities.
1. Restrictions for travel
Passengers will be allowed to travel between the two locations without having to isolate on arrival, and will instead be required to take a Covid-19 test and provide a negative result within 72 hours before departure. Travellers arriving in Hong Kong must also take a Covid-19 test at the airport upon arrival.
Although there will be no restrictions regarding the purpose of travel and no requirement of a controlled itinerary or sponsorship, travellers can’t have travelled outside of Hong Kong or Singapore within 14 days prior to departure. Arrivals will of course have to abide by local Covid-19 restrictions in the respective destinations, such as downloading a contact tracing app and wearing masks. Any travellers who contract the virus will also have to pay their own medical costs. The air travel bubble flights will also only transport passengers travelling between Hong Kong and Singapore, not those transiting through either of the cities.
Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble: From designated flights, to the number and cost of tests, and forms to be filled out, here’s all you need to know https://t.co/NP00XuQR6V— SCMP Asia (@SCMPAsia) November 13, 2020
2. Frequency of flights
There will initially be one flight a day into each city, with a limit of 200 passengers each way, however the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced on Wednesday that the frequency will increase to two flights a day into each city from 7 December.
Singapore Airlines will be operating the designated air travel bubble (ATB) flights. The inaugural ATB flight will depart from Singapore on 22 November, while the inaugural ATB flight from Hong Kong will depart on 23 November. From 7 December 2020, Singapore Airlines will operate daily return ATB flights to Hong Kong. Meanwhile Scoot will be operating the non-air travel bubble flights. Cathay Pacific will also be operating flights between Singapore and Hong Kong on alternate days until 7 December, thereafter increasing to one flight per day until 31 December.
3. Tourism boards join forces
Chief executives of Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Dane Cheng and Keith Tan, have said the ATB is a significant milestone for the global travel industry. They both assured that health and safety remains a priority and that their certification programmes (Hong Kong’s Anti-Epidemic Hygiene Measures Certification Scheme and Singapore’s SG Clean) are in place for both cities. As part of the partnership, both tourism boards will undertake joint promotional activities such as coordinated social media content to promote both cities. Venues in both destinations are getting ready to welcome customers.
Hong Kong & Singapore Collaborate to Welcome Travellers on the Launch of the Bilateral, All-Purpose and Quarantine-Free Air Travel Bubble https://t.co/fsWqLRhYmG— – (@tourism_embassy) November 13, 2020
4. Travel between the two cities
Last year alone, Hong Kong recorded more than 453,000 visitor arrivals from Singapore, while Singapore received 489,000 visitors from Hong Kong, according to the respective cities’ official statistics. Pre-pandemic there were 18 flights per day between the two cities. This link is essential as without domestic air travel markets the two Asian business hubs are very reliant on international travel.
Singapore’s minister for transport, Ong Ye Kung, describes the agreement as a ‘first of its kind’ and said it could go some way in reinstating international travel. ‘The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble enables us to achieve two objectives at the same time – open up our borders in a controlled manner, while maintaining safety in our societies’ he said. Adding, ‘It will be a useful reference for other countries and regions that have controlled the epidemic, and are contemplating opening their borders’.
5. Travel in the future
Both Singapore and Hong Kong have been early advocates of introducing travel agreements with other countries considered to be low risk. Singapore has unilaterally opened its borders to tourists from select countries and Hong Kong is apparently in talks with 10 countries over similar arrangements.
Plans to increase the number of flights from December 7 however, will only go ahead if the coronavirus situation does not deteriorate in either city. Should the weekly average of confirmed cases exceed five per day in either destination, the bubble will be suspended for two weeks, stated Hong Kong’s Secretary for Economic Development and Commerce, Edward Yau.