Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble on ice as COVID-19 cases rise
An air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong is likely to be further delayed, dampening the rebound of Singapore’s two casino resorts.
GGR Asia reported that Singapore’s Transport Minister said it was “very likely” the city-state would not be able to meet the conditions required for starting air travel bubble flights with Hong Kong, the first scheduled on May 26, due to a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore.
Ong Ye Kung made the remarks at an online press conference by Singapore’s COVID-19 multi ministry task force.
“The issue now is the situation in Singapore, when cases are going up,” Mr Ong said.
The official noted that Hong Kong meanwhile, was a “very safe region”, with the number of daily COVID-19 cases ranging between two and zero.
Singapore is home to two casino resorts, Resorts World Sentosa, run by Genting Singapore, and Marina Bay Sands, run by a unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp.
A number of investment analysts have said that Singapore needs to receive a meaningful number of overseas tourists in order to see business thrive at these properties.
Mr Ong said that the city-state’s authorities would monitor the local COVID-19 situation and critically review the start date of the intended air travel bubble with Hong Kong and would make a decision soon.
Singapore and Hong Kong had agreed in April to start the bubble on May 26.
It is the second attempt to do so, with the first proposal deferred due to Hong Kong’s COVID-19 situation.
Any air travel bubble that comes to fruition would require passengers setting off from either city, having a negative COVID-19 test certificate before they can board any flight.
People from Hong Kong to Singapore must also be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before taking such a flight.
It had already been disclosed that for the air travel bubble to start on may 26, that the scheme would be suspended for at least 14 days if the 7-day moving average of unlinked local cases per day amounted to more than five in either city.
Singapore’s COVID-19 cases in the community increased to 71 in the past week, from 48 in the week prior.
Sands looks long term in Singapore
Despite a turbulent past 12 months, casino operator Las Vegas Sands has said it is keen to invest further in the Singapore market.
Following a decision to sell off its Las Vegas gaming and non-gaming assets for US$6.25 billion, the group has capital to invest in other markets.
The sale deal included the Venetian Resort Las Vegas and the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
Las Vegas Sands is eager to invest an additional US$3.3 billion to expand Marina Bay Sands in return for an extension of its existing duopoly of gaming rights in Singapore.
The company plans to build a fourth tower adjacent to its existing complex.
This would include a 15,000 seat arena and new luxury hotel with about 1000 rooms, topped with a sky roof.
Las Vegas Sands’ chairman and chief executive Robert Goldestein said the company was “eager to deploy capital and reinvest” in Singapore, where the return on investment is higher than in Las Vegas.
“We are very focused on Marina Bay Sands. We also intend to invest significantly in the existing towers to ensure the property remains competitive in the future.”