Travel concern among S’poreans due to political unrest, MERS

SINGAPORE — Protests in Vietnam and rising concerns over the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) are making Singaporeans think twice about travelling overseas.

Some 300 people have signed up to go on tours to Vietnam in May and June, but the travel agencies organising them have urged their customers to postpone plans or change their destination due to the anti-China protests there.

Upheavals in Thai politics have also derailed the plans of an agency Channel NewsAsia spoke to, and 25 of its 500 customers have cancelled their trip to Thailand.

With the news that researchers looking into the role of bats and camels in the spread of the MERS virus, travel agencies are also tweaking their itineraries.

Sarawak’s Gunung Mulu National Park is a popular destination to observe the flights of millions of bats, but customers have been advised to change plans to enjoy local dances and make handicrafts instead.

For tours to China and Middle East, some travel agencies are replacing camel rides with sandboarding.

Certain Middle Eastern regions are also losing their charm with customers.

Mr Jeremiah Wong, senior executive of Marketing Communications at Chan Brothers Travel, said: “Pertaining to Egypt, from 2011 onwards, we have seen a 90 per cent dip in demand and bookings.

“But I guess we can better attribute the reason to the political unrest and the situation that is happening in Egypt, rather than the impact of MERS.”

Agencies have also advised customers to buy travel insurance.

NTUC Income and AIA said travellers can still claim for medical conditions arising from political unrest and MERS virus infections, as long as travel advisories have not been issued by the authorities.

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