Just a couple of weeks into the new year, there were jokey memes circulating on social media – about how we’ve had the free trial of 2021 and we’re not interested in continuing our subscription. And while there’s a wry humour to such a sentiment, we at SilverKris prefer to be cautiously optimistic about what 2021 has in store.
Sure, certain things may feel the same (travel restrictions still being in place, for example), but there is also a palpable shift in the air. With the gradual global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and the carefully calibrated easing of social-distancing restrictions, there is a quiet hope for better days ahead.
And we are not alone in feeling this way. Experts from the travel and tourism sector that SilverKris spoke to talked of a slow but steady rejuvenation of the industry. “Vaccination programs, when combined with extensive testing, will facilitate the recovery of international travel,” says Lavinia Rajaram, APAC Head of Communications, Expedia Group. “While these measures create a much safer environment for travellers to move about between international destinations, much of the recovery of travel still hinges upon the establishment of bilateral agreements between governments.”
She adds, “Countries which have had similar success as Singapore in dealing with the pandemic are likely to be the first to welcome visitors from Singapore. We are optimistic of a re-introduction of the Hong Kong-Singapore air travel bubble at some point in 2021. [However] we have to be prepared for the situation to remain dynamic, and adapt quickly to capture opportunities when the time comes.”
According to TripAdvisor’s 2021 Travel Outlook report released on 21 January this year, nearly half (47%) of all respondents globally say they are planning to travel internationally in 2021. Within this group, one in nine respondents have already booked an international trip for 2021, and an additional 17% say they are actively in research mode.
In fact, planning and researching a trip now brings a new quality of excitement for travellers. With most of us cooped up at home for a good part of 2020, it’s no wonder three quarters of travellers surveyed globally (including more than 79% of travellers in Singapore) say they will spend more time choosing a destination this year.
Travellers in Singapore have also indicated that the availability of the Covid-19 vaccines has bolstered their confidence to venture overseas once again. In Singapore, 90% of travellers say they are more likely to travel internationally if they receive the vaccine.
So what else can travellers look forward to in the months ahead? Read on to find out.
1. More mindful travel
According to Mark Wong, Senior Vice President (Asia Pacific) at Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), luxury travel is evolving from “travelling with style and indulgence” to “travelling with purpose and intention”. Because travel has once again become a limited and precious commodity, people are more likely to be more intentional with where they spend their tourist dollars. Increasingly, they will be looking for accommodation that align with their values – that gives back to the local community and keeps waste to a minimum. A recent SLH survey bears this out. Interviews with over 1,500 members of SLH’s Invited loyalty club found that nearly two thirds believe sustainability is more important now than it was pre-Covid-19 era, and 58% of respondents say they intend to make more sustainably minded choices when they resume travel.
2. An evolution of “bleisure”
While the trend of combining business and leisure in a single trip has been gaining traction in the last couple of years, the pandemic has shifted the way people work and play. People are increasingly working remotely and, as we’ve seen, this does not necessarily mean working from home. Rainer Stampfer, President, Hotel Operations – Asia Pacific, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, says the brand has definitely seen an uptick in their home rental services.
Stampfer shares, “While the conventional form of business travel is having a slower recovery compared to leisure travel, we are seeing a growing group of executives combine work, family time and leisure at a hotel or a resort. In parts of the world where travel is taking place again, we are seeing our luxury home rental arm (Four Seasons Private Retreats) gain popularity from guests who are seeking a getaway. They want assurance that they have their own space and privacy, especially if they are travelling with family.”
Four Seasons Private Retreats are self-contained with all the amenities of a home, but come with the full service of a hotel or resort. To cater to this trend, the brand is offering additional benefits for extended stays of over 30 days, including private fitness sessions and personalised culinary and wellness plans.
3. More flexibility from service providers
While we have our fingers crossed that the recovery of travel and tourism will be a smooth one, it’s only prudent to hope for the best and expect the worst. Lavinia Rajaram of Expedia Group echoes this sentiment. “The need for flexibility will be key for travel in the future,” she says. “Learning from their experiences during the pandemic, travellers will adopt an ‘anything can happen’ approach, as lockdowns may reoccur and plans may change at the last minute. In anticipation for this shift, Expedia has enabled the option to filter flights with ‘no change fees’ and lodging and activities with ‘free cancellation’.”
4. Dining out is in again
While the government-mandated lockdowns have proved a boon for takeout and delivery services, nothing quite beats the experience of dressing up and enjoying a night of revelry about town. According to the aforementioned TripAdvisor report, 48% of respondents in Singapore say they plan to dine in-person at restaurants more often this year. This should come as a relief to the beleaguered F&B industry that has unfortunately seen one too many restaurants shut down due to the pandemic. Wee Teng Wen, Founder of the Lo & Behold restaurant group, says, “Guests are looking to restaurant experiences as a wonderful means of transporting ourselves to destinations we love.”
He adds, “Recovery for the industry looks generally optimistic, with Singapore emerging stronger compared to many counterparts. We are very fortunate to have a strong domestic market and inbound visitors who are drawn to Singapore as a safe haven.”
If you’re among those who are raring for a night out or even a weekend of café-hopping, check out our recommendations for the city’s hidden speakeasy-style bars here and the most unique brunch spots here.
Please check the establishment’s website for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.