THE news for the airline and tourism industry has gone from bad to worse, with sliding bookings and rising cancellations beginning to show.
As if the Iraq war was not enough of a dampener, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak has added to the industry's woes.
The list of countries warning people not to travel to areas hit by SARS – including Singapore – is growing. Last week, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea and Thailand placed Singapore on a list of countries to avoid.
On Thursday, Indonesia warned its citizens against travel to Singapore, China and Vietnam. The Philippines will insist on medical checks at the airport of all passengers returning from countries hit by SARS, an embassy official said.
Malaysia has told its citizens studying here to take care.
The Singapore Tourism Board said that its preliminary statistics show that from March 1 to 23, Singapore received 440,682 visitors, a drop of 8.8% compared with the same period last year.
Hotels are feeling it already. A spokesman for The Fullerton said: “We've seen cancellations from wary travellers and fewer reservations because of concerns.”
Conrad Centennial Singapore general manager Heinrich Grafe said: “Reservations have been extremely slow. A lot of big companies are reducing travel by staff and this has caused hotels here to suffer substantially.”
Singapore Airlines said it was receiving more cancellations and fewer bookings to areas affected by SARS, including its home base.
Travel agents are set to see their peak season, the June school holidays, go limp. With all schools shut until April 6 because of SARS, there will be a shorter mid-year break. And that will hit Singapore families' travel plans.
Alicia Seah, assistant general manager of business development at SA (UIC) Tours, said: “As of now, there aren't many bookings for the June holidays. But we've seen a decline in sales of about 30% compared with the same period last year.”
Chan Brothers marketing communications manager Ivy Tan, 31, said: “We've received numerous calls from people whose travel plans have been affected by the announcement on Wednesday. But so far, no one has asked to postpone or cancel their trips.”
Travel agents are not the only ones with a problem.
Dr Lim Boon Hee, 42, a general practitioner, booked himself and 12 other family members on a discounted flight to Beijing on June 8.
He paid for his tickets just hours before the Wednesday announcement. Now, he is trying to get the dates changed. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network