How ‘travel bubble’ between Hong Kong and Singapore will work

A woman heads towards a departure gate at the Hong Kong International Airport.

Christian Keenan | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Leisure travel between Hong Kong and Singapore could resume in the coming weeks as both cities work to set up a bilateral “travel bubble” that will allow travelers to forgo quarantine.

The two cities — both major business and financial centers in Asia — have suffered economically as the coronavirus pandemic hit tourism and the aviation sector.

But the arrangement will not bring travel volume between the two cities back to what it was before the pandemic, when several flights ploughed the Hong Kong-Singapore route every day, said Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development.

“The concept of the bilateral corridor, what’s commonly called air travel bubble, must be one that ensure safety, public health on the one hand; and also facilitating traveling as much as possible,” Yau told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.

Specific details of the travel bubble and its start date are still being worked out, but the secretary said the two cities could start with one flight a day. The flight will only ferry passengers traveling under the bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore, and will not include those transiting through either of the cities, he explained.

The secretary outlined the other major features of the travel bubble, which include:

  • Requiring travelers to test negative for the coronavirus pre-departure;
  • Hong Kong may require visitors to take another test upon arrival to make sure they’re “fit for travel”;   
  • Travelers will not have to serve a quarantine and their itinerary will not be controlled;
  • Authorities from both cities will adjust — or even suspend — the number of dedicated flights under the arrangement based on the coronavirus situation.

Last year, Hong Kong recorded more than 453,000 visitor arrivals from Singapore, while Singapore received 489,000 visitors from Hong Kong, according to the respective cities’ official statistics.

Yau said in addition to Singapore, Hong Kong is also in talks with Macao and mainland China to potentially bring back travel.

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