UPDATED NOVEMBER 26, 2020
The planned travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore has been scrapped a day before its launch. Hong Kong announced the scheme would have to be deferred for two weeks following a sudden rise in coronavirus infections. “This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs,” Singapore transport minister Ong Ye Kung wrote on his Facebook page.
The harsh reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is that much of life as we once knew has changed. On top of restricting how we live and interact with one another, and how we work and communicate, it has also heavily crippled the tourism industry. Travel has become a rare luxury with strict guidelines and restrictions.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), 96 per cent of the planet’s destinations have imposed travel restrictions, either completely or partially closing their borders. With Malaysia keeping its borders closed to tourists into 2021, international travel will remain off the table for now.
The adrenaline rush from the ride to the airport, boarding that long-awaited flight to your destination, using foreign currencies, speaking a smattering of a different language, and taking pictures at scenic spots to fill your Instagram with travel-brag-worthy shots are now a distant memory. But there is hope yet.
UNTWO estimated that international tourism could decline by up to 80 per cent this year over 2019, putting at least 100 million jobs at risk. In light of this, countries are now putting new arrangements in place to strike a balance between health and economic concerns, to save international commerce and tourism from further decline.
On November 11, 2020, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) announced that the air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong will launch on November 22, with one flight a day into each city with 200 passengers each way. But what exactly is a travel bubble and how does it work?