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Customers at a restaurant in the Chinatown area in Singapore, on Tuesday, March 29 2022. Picture: BLOOMBERG/LAURYN ISHAK
Customers at a restaurant in the Chinatown area in Singapore, on Tuesday, March 29 2022. Picture: BLOOMBERG/LAURYN ISHAK

Restaurants and bars in Singapore are seeing reservations jump after the government announced it would allow larger gatherings and permit alcohol to be sold later in the night from Tuesday.

Within 15 minutes of last week’s news that rules would be eased, Grand Hyatt Singapore’s restaurants started getting calls, said Sebastian Kern, its director of food and beverage. “All the restaurants experienced a surge in bookings for increased seating capacity,” he said. 

At cocktail bar Jekyll & Hyde, owner Chua Ee Chien said reservations have gone up by at least 50% this week and he expects daily takings to increase by 20% to 30%.

“It’s definitely the right time to reopen,” Chua said. “We have seen other countries reopening, and, when we heard the news that curbs would be eased, the reaction for us was elation.” 

Singapore’s move to relax restrictions comes as the country takes decisive steps to live with Covid-19. Masks can now be removed outdoors, dine-in groups can be doubled to 10 people and travel curbs have mostly lifted for those fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, the number of people admitted to hospital fell to just over 700 Monday, from more than 1,400 at the start of the month. New virus cases have dropped below 5,000.

The country’s benchmark Straits Times index has jumped more than 10% this year as investors pile into cyclical shares on expectations of further reopening and greater demand for goods and services domestically and globally, given the export-orientated nature of the economy. The gauge is the best performer in Asia Pacific, with the regional measure MSCI Asia Pacific index down 7%.

Hospitality-orientated property stocks have also fared well, with CDL Hospitality Trusts’ shares climbing 14% and Far East Hospitality Trust higher by 11% this year. Taxi fleet operator ComfortDelgro has risen about 7%, and Singapore Airlines is up almost 10% this year.

‘Beyond excited’

For Atlas bar, ranked among the world’s best 50 bars last year, the most significant change was demand for late-night cocktails, with 40% of the requests coming for late-night reservations. “We are beyond excited we are allowed to trade late again,” said Nadine Hosford, its director for food and beverage. 

The aviation industry is also benefiting. Scoot Pte, the budget carrier under Singapore Airlines, is seeing demand for travel in Asia, including from Singapore to Malaysia and Australia, CEO Campbell Wilson said. 

From Friday, fully vaccinated people from all parts of the world can visit Singapore by air or sea without undergoing quarantine or testing on arrival. Other countries in Southeast Asia, including Thailand and Malaysia, are taking similar steps. 

Border reopenings in Southeast Asia are good news for Scoot because most of its flights are in the region, Campbell said. “The big thing for Singapore is what was announced last week, not having to wear masks outdoors, being able to go out past 10.30pm at night,” he said. “With this change, it immediately returns Singapore to a consideration set.” 

The government aims to restore passenger volume at Changi Airport to at least 50% of pre-pandemic levels by later this year, compared to 18.2% earlier this month. Scoot is now flying to two-thirds of its pre-Covid city counts on about 40% of its capacity, Campbell said. Passenger volumes at Singapore Airlines were 26% of pre-Covid levels at the end of 2021.

Staffing

Still, the hospitality and aviation sectors face challenges to ensure sufficient levels of supplies and staff are available to meet anticipated demand. 

Many people left after the pandemic battered the food and beverage industry, Jekyll & Hyde’s Chua said. Meanwhile, Scoot is looking to hire about 800 cabin crew this year as it prepares for a pick up in travel, Campbell said. 

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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