JAKARTA – Mr Samuel Affan feels happy and excited that for the first time in two years, he will spend a three-week holiday in Singapore and hang out with his relatives and friends.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Jakarta resident used to visit the Republic – his favourite holiday destination – at least twice a year with his family, strolling around Orchard Road, dining in Chinatown and Newton, and shopping in Bugis Street.
“It’s more convenient now because there’s no quarantine any more,” the 35-year old told The Straits Times before boarding a Singapore Airlines flight from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, on Friday (April 8).
In June last year, Mr Samuel came to Singapore to accompany his uncle, who was 69 at that time and had to undergo surgery and a series of treatments for cancer in a hospital.
Although they had to spend 14 days in quarantine upon arrival in Singapore, and then another five days for a similar arrangement when they returned to Indonesia, he was grateful that the procedures were successful.
“This time I have no burden. I want to have fun. I’ll enjoy the food, shopping and meeting up with my relatives,” the marketing executive said, adding that he is also keen to try new attractions.
Mr Onky Martha and his wife, Ms Anastasia Viananda, told ST that after two years of not visiting Singapore, they are glad to return and spend the weekend visiting their favourite destinations, such as Bugis Street, Marina Bay and Orchard Road, and enjoy some local food, such as nasi lemak, laksa and fishball noodles.
“This is a spontaneous trip. We just found cheap (return) tickets yesterday and booked them right away,” said Mr Onky, who owns a property company, while queueing at a Scoot check-in counter at the airport.
Acknowledging that they had no specific tourist attractions in mind for their Singapore trip, the 32-year old said: “When travelling, we seek to enjoy the vibes and dine. That’s all.”
When asked about how the eased restrictions, particularly the quarantine-free arrangement, would affect their trip, Ms Anastasia said: “We are happy. It’s much easier now.”
Mr Samuel, Mr Onky and Ms Anastasia are among Indonesians flocking to Singapore again after the Republic allowed all vaccinated travellers and children aged 12 and below to enter without quarantine from April 1. They need to do only a pre-departure antigen rapid test.
As many as 33,000 Indonesians visited Singapore in 2021, according to the Singapore Tourism Board.
In terms of the number of applications for vaccinated travel passes (VTPs), Indonesia, South-east Asia’s largest economy, was among the top five countries. Singapore issued more than 100,000 VTPs between September and December last year.
Singapore’s popularity as a travel destination among Indonesians is reflected in the high frequency of flights by airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Scoot and Garuda Indonesia.
Premium Indonesian airline Batik Air said in a statement that it will resume flights to Singapore from April 20.
Bookings for trips to Singapore at Fuji Tour Batam have been rising since the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) for those traveling by sea opened on Feb 25, said Mr Syauqi Sayuti, who runs the Batam-based travel agency.
There have been early signs of a rebound in visits to the pre-pandemic level since April 1, when Singapore lifted the quarantine requirement, he added.
In the first five days of April, the agency facilitated travel for 50 visitors. That compares with 10 trips a day on average before the pandemic began.
“Even with a few requirements under the VTL, there were many who indicated their interest (to visit Singapore). Although visitors had to take PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, they were willing to do so because they missed Singapore,” Mr Syauqi said, adding that their favourite destinations include Chinatown and Bugis.
“There may be even more (travellers) with the eased restrictions. Hopefully, the demand (for trips to Singapore) is back to normal soon.”
However, instead of big groups led by tour leaders that would typically have 120 visitors, like before the pandemic, the agency has arranged more private trips, with no agency staff accompanying the visitors, Mr Syauqi noted.
“We help with the transport there and the documents, in line with prevailing regulations,” he said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.