Be prepared for changes to year-end holiday plans, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Be prepared for changes to year-end holiday plans

Travel situation volatile as countries grapple with emerging Omicron variant: Industry players

The spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant around the world may scupper year-end holiday plans for some people in Singapore, with industry players warning travellers to be prepared for the situation to change quickly.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday announced that quarantine exemptions for fully vaccinated inbound travellers would be suspended for two weeks from today.

But yesterday, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Singapore said the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) arrangement between both countries would proceed without change at the moment.

Singapore yesterday became the latest country to detect the Omicron variant, after two travellers who arrived on Wednesday from Johannesburg preliminarily tested positive for the Covid-19 strain while in quarantine.

Two travel agencies told The Straits Times that some customers, spooked by South Korea's announcement on Wednesday, had been calling them up, before the embassy's assurance.

ST has contacted SA Tours, Dynasty Travel and ASA Holidays for comment too.

Mr Jeremiah Wong, a senior marketing communications manager at Chan Brothers, said the travel agency also received inquiries from Europe-bound customers.

He said customers can either postpone their tour, transfer their booking to another VTL destination, or seek a full refund if affected by tightened restrictions in VTL countries.

Meanwhile, CTC Travel has advised customers to consider postponing or cancelling their trips, a spokesman told ST.

Independent analyst Brendan Sobie, of Sobie Aviation, said the Omicron variant's emergence is a major setback to the recovery of international travel.

"There's been a lack of consensus and uniformity in the response so far by governments as countries have quickly implemented a wide variety of measures," he said.

He noted that these varied from banning all non-resident arrivals or those from selected countries, to reimposing quarantine for travellers from selected countries or for everyone.

Chan Brothers' Mr Wong said that since Wednesday's announcement by South Korea, there have been no cancellations so far for VTL trips to that country and Europe.

Some travellers, typically those eager to go abroad again after a long hiatus and have taken leave from work for their trip, want to proceed despite the changes in border measures.

CTC Travel's spokesman said some customers due to travel to South Korea later this month are taking a wait-and-see approach.

She added that the agency has seen the number of inquiries for travel to VTL countries shrink by 20 per cent to 30 per cent.