DESPERATE to escape the choking smoke haze from Sumatra that has enveloped the country since last weekend, some Singaporeans are making last-minute travel bookings.
The National Environment Agency of Singapore posted an all-time high Pollutant Standards Index reading of 400 points at 11.00 today, a level within the hazardous range.
Alicia Seah, senior vice president of marketing and PR, CTC Travel, told TTG Asia e-Daily that the telephones at her retail offices “have been ringing off the hook since this morning”.
“While we usually get five calls in the morning, our staff today are taking around 30 calls. Customers are pressing for urgent departures this weekend or early next week to Australia, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and Hong Kong – destinations that are not affected by the haze.
“As June is the peak outbound travel season due to the school holidays, most group tours are already sold out. Customers are undeterred and willing to fork out a premium for free-and-easy packages and last-minute airfares which are priced 25-30 per cent higher than those booked ahead of time.”
Seah said the bookings were for four- to seven-day programmes.
However, it is a different story at other outbound tour agencies.
Chan Brothers Travel spokesperson, Ivy Tan, said: “We are not seeing any last-minute outbound bookings perhaps because this is already the last week of the school holidays. People will have to take urgent leave should they wish to escape from the haze, and employers may not take well to urgent leave applications for such reasons. Moreover, the authorities have said that the haze will last for weeks. How long can Singaporeans stay away?”
Not only has Sam How, general manager at Asia-Euro Holidays, not seen any last-minute bookings, business at his retail outlet in Chinatown Point has been “very quiet, as people prefer to stay indoors and out of the haze”.
In the meantime, The Wall Street Journal reported that Singapore-based budget carriers such as Scoot, Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia were banking on the haze to offer snap getaway deals for travellers looking to escape.