Singaporeâs vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with Germany has catapulted the European destination to the top of the outbound chart for business travel at FCM, doubling the travel management companyâs bookings into Germany in September.
An analysis of FCMâs data revealed that almost 100 per cent of people returning from Munich and Frankfurt are on VTL flights. Travellers have switched from non-VTL flights or transferred from other German cities onto VTL flights out of Frankfurt or Munich so they can enter Singapore without need for quarantine.
Vicki Parris, vice president for customer success in Asia, noted that âcompanies and travellersâ travel intent remains high, especially to VTL destinationsâ.
âWe are seeing a very positive outlook with corporate travellers eager to embrace the VTLs. Corporate travel and the corresponding customer experience are getting a new lease of life. With the pandemic taking its toll on relationships and mental well-being, we also noticed a change in the purpose of travel among our clients,â Parris added.
While leisure, bleisure and home leave usually account for less than five per cent of FCMâs booking volume in the past, the VTL has triggered a massive spike in these travel purposes in September, accounting for a third of total bookings.
The majority of travellers are European expatriates who have not seen their families for the past 18 months. While many of them used the Singapore-Germany VTL for business needs, several travellers also took the opportunity to either meet with family or add on a few days of leisure into the trip.
Hassle-free access to Germany has also led business travellers from Singapore to use the destination as a central meeting point with colleagues, particularly from across Europe and the US, Parris told TTGmice.
âFCM also took the opportunity to do (the same) and had corporate executive team members from the UK and other parts of Europe, the US and Singapore catch-up for the first time in 18 months, face-to-face in Munich,â she added.
Germany currently allows travellers aged 12 years and older from non-high-risk and virus mutant regions to enter with proof of full vaccination, recovery from Covid-19, or a negative test result. Unrestricted travel is offered to residents from countries such as Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, and the UAE. European Union citizens are exempted from entry restrictions.
When asked if the convenience of meeting up in Germany has also encouraged clients from other parts of Asia to choose to convene with Singapore colleagues and business partners in the destination, Parris said this has yet to happen.
âHowever, we do have a number of clients headquartered in Germany and the rest of Europe, and so are expecting a greater pick-up soonâ¦from the rest of our Asian markets,â she said, adding that âEurope remains a key region of importance for FCM Asiaâs clients for a variety of reasons including business travel, bleisure, home leave and repatriationâ.
To stimulate demand and activity for these newly opened routes, airlines with VTL flights have reduced their economy fares by an average of 60 per cent post-VTL announcement, noted FCM. On the other hand, prices of business class tickets have increased by 15 per cent as airlines attempt to regain revenue from less price-sensitive businesses and individual corporate travellers.
Parris said prices across all cabins would rise on the back of pent-up travel demand, especially in a situation of limited availability on selected flights to a single destination.
âHowever, as Flight Centre Travel Group and FCM have seen in other countries where travel has resumed, traveller confidence takes time to rebuild,â she said.
âFCM has seen a very good start to the second half of 2021 globally. Many western countries have already stopped using lockdowns and we saw our European and Americas markets pick up significantly through their international and domestic corporate travel markets respectively.
âIn Singapore, the VTLs were introduced as part of the goal towards an endemic endgame and the encouraging uplift in bookings and travel since its introduction is driving a lot of confidence in Asia for the months ahead,â she said.
She expects the strong German-bound corporate travel momentum out of Singapore to continue into the year-end.