Singapore Signs New Grand Prix Deal

Formula 1 Grand Prix will continue to be staged in Singapore after it was announced that a new contract has been signed with Formula 1 to hold the event for at least the next seven years.

Main picture Singapore Grand Prix credit Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

The iconic floodlit event, first staged in 2008, has become increasingly popullar with fans as well as teams and corporate sponsors where it has been a key location for many deals and hospitality agreements.

“Singapore holds a special place on the F1 calendar, and this extension is part of our long-term commitment to continue to grow the sport in Asia.”

Stefano Domenicali, Formula 1 President via BBC

The event has not been staged for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic but it looks increasingly likely that this years event will take place.

The new contract, which includes the Singapore government, will last until at least 2028.

We first reported on negotiations for a contract extension in November last year.

“All parties will work closely together with relevant government agencies and industry stakeholders to refine and implement appropriate protocols to prioritise the health and safety of all participants, staff, fans and the community”.

(Race organisers will work with the country’s tourism board) “to reduce the carbon footprint of the Singapore race as part of a transition to more sustainable business models and to be in line with the sustainability goals of Formula 1”.

Official statement

It is believed that sustainability initiatives involved will include a switch to renewable energy sources and increased recycling as well as the completion of a full sustainability audit.

Source: BBC

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Southeast Asia Winners In Tripadvisor Awards 2022

Tripadvisor have announced the first of its annual community-powered Travelers’ Choice Awards for 2022: the Best of the Best Destinations and there are a number of Southeast Asia destinations making the cut.

Main picture Tegenungan Waterfall, bali, Indonesia credit Devon Daniel on Unsplash

The Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best Destinations Awards honour travellers’ favourite destinations worldwide based on the quality and quantity of reviews and ratings specific to each award subcategory from travellers on Tripadvisor for accommodations, restaurants, and things to do in destinations worldwide over the 12-month period between 1st November 2020 and 31st October 2021.

Dubai was the top-dog in this category but coming out top in Southeast Asia, and 4th overall, was Bali in Indonesia.

Tripadvisor said that “Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy. Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. The “artistic capital” of Ubud is the perfect place to see a cultural dance performance, take a batik or silver-smithing workshop, or invigorate your mind and body in a yoga class.”

Bali, Indonesia credit Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

In 16th place in the global standings was Singapore with Tripadvisor saying “The Singapore cityscape looks like it was ripped from the pages of a science fiction comic book. If you’re hungry for a true Singapore experience, sample the myriad street foods or take a cultural cooking class. The Botanic Gardens and the Gardens By the Bay offer a slice of horticultural heaven, and the observation deck of the Sands SkyPark makes you feel like you’re high above the clouds. The banks and walkways along the Singapore River bustle with local activity.

In 3rd place in Southeast Asia and 21st overall was the Thai capital of Bangkok.

Tripadvisor said “Golden palaces, floating markets, majestic porcelain-laid spires…you’ve never seen a capital city quite like Bangkok. Visit Pratunam or Siam Square for premium shopping, then unwind in the European-style gardens of Dusit. Thon Buri is home to the awesome Wat Arun temple, and over in Phra Nakhon, you’ll find the Wat Pho temple of the Reclining Buddha. Savor mango sticky rice at a food stall before taking in the gilded splendor of the Grand Palace.”

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand credit Alejandro Cartagena on Unsplash

The final Southeast Asia entry, sitting in 23rd place was another magnate for tourists in Thailand, Phuket.

Tripadvisor said “Thailand’s largest island is an international magnet for beach lovers and serious divers, who enthusiastically submerge themselves in the Andaman Sea. Blue lagoons and salmon sunsets make for a dream-like atmosphere, and indeed, a vacation here can feel a bit surreal. Watersports are the most popular activities, though once you’ve had enough sun there’s still plenty to explore at the island’s aquariums, gardens, and Buddhist temples.”

  1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  2. London, UK
  3. Cancun, Mexico
  4. Bali, Indonesia
  5. Crete, Greece
  6. Rome, Italy
  7. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  8. Istanbul, Turkey,
  9. Paris, France
  10. Hurghada, Egypt
  11. Barcelona, Spain
  12. Marrakech, Morocco
  13. Tenerife, Canary Islands
  14. Corsica, france
  15. New Delhi, India
  16. Singapore
  17. Edinburgh, UK
  18. Florence, Italy
  19. Jaipur, India
  20. Cusco, Peru
  21. Bangkok, Thailand
  22. Doha, Qatar
  23. Phuket, Thailand
  24. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
  25. Las Vegas, Nevada

Top Destinations for Sun Seekers — World

The Sun Seekers list of course featured in Southeast Asia.

Once again Bali was the leading contender overall, placing in 2nd place, with Phuket placed in 13th.

  1. Cancun, Mexico
  2. Bali, Indonesia
  3. Crete, Greece
  4. Cabo St Lucas, Mexico
  5. Player Del Carmen, Mexico
  6. Dominican Republic
  7. Majorca, Spain
  8. Hurghada, Egypt
  9. Tenerife, Spain
  10. Corsica, France
  11. Rhodes, Greece
  12. Aruba
  13. Phuket, Thailand
  14. Santorini, Greece
  15. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
  16. Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
  17. Oahu, Hawaii
  18. Goa, India
  19. Jamaica
  20. La Fortuna De San Carlos, Costa Rica
  21. Sedona, USA
  22. Praia Grande, Brazil
  23. Orlando, USA
  24. Campos Do Jordao, Brazil
  25. Banos, Ecuador
Phuket, Thailand credit Mike Swigunski on Unsplash

Top Destinations for City Lovers — World

A highly contested category where is was suprising that there were not more entries from Southeast Asia, although like all of the results it may well have been affected by Covid pandemic lockdowns. Singapore was 13th globally and Bangkok appeared at number 17.

  1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  2. London, UK
  3. Rome, Italy
  4. Istanbul, Turkey
  5. Paris, France
  6. Barcelona, Spain
  7. Marrakech, Morocco
  8. Madrid, Spain
  9. Cairo, Egypt
  10. New Delhi, India
  11. Singapore
  12. Edinburgh, UK
  13. Florence, Italy
  14. Jaipur, India
  15. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  16. Cusco, Peru
  17. Bangkok, Thailand
  18. Doha, Qatar
  19. Lisbon, Portugal
  20. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  21. Las Vegas, USA
  22. Naples, Italy
  23. Udaipur, India
  24. Athens, Greece
  25. Mumbai, India

Top Destinations for Food Lovers — World

The food throughout Southeast Asia is stunning, these awards however tend to reward the variety as well as quality of food, so it is not just the incredible local food that leads to good results.

Bangkok was the highest ranking Southeast Asia country in 9th place overall, followed by Singapore in 10th and Hanoi in Vietnam in 22nd place.

Hanoi, Vietnam credit Anh Hoang on Unsplash

Tripadvisor said the following about Hanoi “The charming Vietnamese capital has aged well, preserving the Old Quarter, monuments and colonial architecture, while making room for modern developments alongside. Hanoi may have shrugged off several former names, including Thang Long, or “ascending dragon,” but it hasn’t forgotten its past, as sites such as Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison attest. Lakes, parks, shady boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city, which is easily explored by taxi.”

  1. Rome, Italy
  2. London, UK
  3. Paris, France
  4. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  5. Barcelona, Spain
  6. Madrid, Spain
  7. Sao Paulo, Brazil
  8. New York City, USA
  9. Bangkok, Thailand
  10. Singapore
  11. Florence, Italy
  12. Istanbul, Turkey
  13. Lisbon, Portugal
  14. Valencia, Spain
  15. Naples, Italy
  16. Cairo, Egypt
  17. Bordeaux, France
  18. Cartegena, Colombia
  19. Lyon, France
  20. New Orleans, USA
  21. Mexico City, Mexico
  22. Hanoi, Vietnam
  23. Charleston, USA
  24. Marrakech, Morocco
  25. Hong Kong

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Could Malaysia Open Its Borders Soon

There are rising hopes that Malaysia may start to welcome back tourists following comments from Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Main picture Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia credit Azlan Baharudin on Unsplash

The borders to Malaysia have been closed since March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic started to spread globally apart from the recent introduction of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) with Singapore.

However any relaxtion of controls is likely to be gradual as the country takes a cautious approach.

“So when more people have received their vaccine booster shots, maybe we can consider relaxing the SOP(standard operating procedures). If we can reopen our borders, the economy will also improve.

“However, all this will depend on views from the Health Ministry.” 

Malaysia Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob

The tourism industry has been especially hard hit in Malaysia despite attempts to protect it through domestic tourism. Any relaxtion of controls are likely to be warmly welcomed by those in the industry.

Source: The Straits Times/The Star/Asia News Network

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Vietnam Artist Celebrates The Upcoming Year Of The Tiger

[REUTERS] As Vietnam prepares to celebrate the Year of the Tiger next month, local artist Nguyen Tan Phat has been busy making hundreds of ornately carved sculptures of tigers to mark the upcoming Lunar New Year.

Main picture artist Nguyen Tan Phat stands in his yard with his Tiger carving works ahead of the Lunar New year in Hanoi, Vietnam. REUTERS/Stringer

Phat, who originally specialised in traditional Vietnamese lacquer work, aims to make 2,022 tigers carved from wood and laterite in the next few months.

While he often creates art themed with the zodiac animal of the year, Phat said he felt a particular draw this time.

“I am very fond of tigers as an animal, as they are so powerful yet so majestic,” said Phat, speaking from his home and workshop in Duong Lam, a historic village just north of Hanoi.

Nguyen Tan Phat stands in his yard with his Tiger carving works ahead of the Lunar New year in Hanoi, Vietnam. REUTERS/Stringer

The eclectic mix of tiger sculptures are made from local materials including the wood of the jackfruit tree and a clay-like laterite commonly used in buildings in the area.

Some carvings are also encrusted in crushed egg shells and sea shells to form stripes and other markings.

Phat said it takes about six weeks to complete one tiger, with painting and lacquer work particularly time consuming. He works on multiple tigers at a time and employs two or three people to help with sanding, lacquering and finishing tasks, he said.

“I paint them with about 10 layers,” the 39-year-old artist told Reuters.

Nguyen Tan Phat stands in his yard with his Tiger carving works ahead of the Lunar New year in Hanoi, Vietnam. REUTERS/Stringer
Nguyen Tan Phat shows his Tiger carving works to the customers ahead of the New Lunar New year in Hanoi, Vietnam. REUTERS/Stringer

Phat has completed more than 800 tigers in a variety of forms, ranging from palm-sized carvings to five tiger-shaped chairs. He plans to put all 2,022 tigers on display in an exhibition before selling them.

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Hopes Of Tourism Recovery In Singapore

In 2019 around 19.1 million people visited Singapore, that dropped to just 330,000 in 2021, a record low, as the pandemic halted international travel.

Main picture Gardens by the Bay, Singapore credit Hanisah Kamis on Unsplash

There are hopes now however that the first seeds of recovery have already been sown after the launch of Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) at the end of last year.

The VTL scheme allows fully vaccinated travellers, from select countries, to visit Singapore without the need for a quarantine period. They do however have to take a series of Covid-19 tests, although daily test regulations have recently been relaxed.

Indonesia Travel Bubble

Yesterday officials in Indonesia announced that travellers from Singapore would soon be able to visit Batam and Bintan islands as part of a travel bubble. Now there is news from Singapore that they are working on making the arrangement a two-way travel bubble, allowing visitors from the islands into Singapore.

Officials in Singapore however said that the move would proceed with caution.

“we have to take into account the Covid-19 situation, in particular the outbreak of the Omicron variant, and we will do so at a pace that both sides are comfortable with, taking into account our respective public health situations.”

Lee Hsien Loong, President of Singapore

There is still no official announcement of when the Indonesian side of the arrangement will open although there have been reports that PCR testing stations are being built at the permitted entry points.

Source: REUTERS & The Straits Times

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Indonesia Opens Islands To Singapore Visitors

Indonesia today announced that visitors from Singapore will be allowed to travel to Batam and Bintan as part of their efforts to restart tourism in the country.

Main picture Bintan beach Indonesia credit Kharl Anthony Paica on Unsplash

The two islands sit around 15 km (9.32 miles) and 30 km from Singapore and prior to Covid-19 were popular destinations for Singaporeans.

“The Indonesian government is encouraging the establishment of travel bubble between Batam, Bintan and Singapore… This would help spur tourism.”

Airlangga Hartarto, Indonesia Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto via The Straits Times

Travellers from Singapore under the travel bubble will be allowed to enter Indonesia either by the Nongsapura ferry terminal in Batam or the Bandar Bentan Telani ferry terminal in Bintan.

All visitors must be fully vaccinated and have been in Singapore for at least the preceeding 14 days before arrival. They must also have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before departure and have suitable medical insurance.

Source: REUTERS & The Straits Times

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Bali Releases Endangered Indonesian Turtles Into The Sea

[REUTERS] A batch of 40 turtle hatchlings waddled towards the sea in Indonesia on Thursday as part of a release on a beach on the country’s most popular resort island of Bali.

Main picture hawksbill Turtle credit Rikard Zerpe on flickr

The turtles, of the olive ridley and hawksbill species, were rescued from Bali beaches and a local conservation group has been urging volunteers to take part in their release, hoping to boost awareness of the need to protect endangered species.

“I participated because we can educate the public about why they should not kill these turtles,” said Made Ayu Diah Permata at the island’s Sanur beach.

“I hope that the turtles can continue to live in the wild so our children and grandchildren can see them.”

Volunteers prepare baby Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) that were rescued from predators by the local conservation community, to be released to the sea, in Sanur, Bali, Indonesia. REUTERS/Sultan Anshori

Indonesia has become a hub of international trafficking of marine turtles, feeding demand from countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

Authorities recently sent 33 endangered green sea turtles rescued during a raid on poachers back to the ocean.

“Only 1%-2% of the sea turtles can survive the cycle of birth long enough to lay eggs – the number is very small,” said Agus Budi Santoso, head of the Bali Natural Resources Conservation Center, which organises the releases.

“The more we release, the better it will be for the species,” he added. Hawksbill turtles are classified as critically endangered according to World Wildlife Fund, and olive ridley turtles classified as vulnerable.

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Singapore VTL Daily Test Change

Concerned about rising global cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, Singapore imposed mandatory daily antigen rapid testing (ART) for all visitors under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme on days 2 to 7 after arrival. This move has been credited with helping to detect more than 700 imported cases of the Omicron variant.

Main picture Singapore from the air credit dronepicr on flickr

Today it was announced that from 24th January day 2 to 7 ART tests would only be required if the visitor was leaving their accommodation. The test must be completed and a negative result returned before heading out into Singapore.

The current requirement to complete supervised ART tests on days 3 and 7 and submit all ART test results will also be dispensed with from the same date.

All travellers will still be required to complete a PCR test on arrival.

Anyone who tests positive during the 7-days will no longer need to complete a PCR test as long as they only have minor symptoms. They will need to complete a 72-hour self-isolation and once completed, and if they then test negative, can resume normal activites.

Numbers on VTL flights and overland services will remain at the current reduced levels for the time-being.

Source: The Straits Times

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Confirmed Changes To Thailand Test and Go Programme

Following the announcement of the relaunch of the Test & GO “quarantine-free” programme from 1st February we now have more details of the plan which includes an additional confinement day.

In the previous incarnation of Test & GO travellers would complete a PCR test on arrival and would have to wait at an approved SHA+ accommodation for their negative results.

Test & GO from 1st February will still require the initial stay but will not have an additional PCR test on day 5 and must stay in approved hotel accommodation on that day until a negative result.

Travellers can apply for a Test & GO Thailand Pass 60 days in advance of their trip as long as they are scheduled to arrive in the country from 9.00am Thailand time on 1st February. However on application they must provide proof of 2 separate nights of accommodation at government-approved hotel/s, such as, SHA Extra Plus (SHA++), AQ, OQ, or AHQ on Day 1 and Day 5, and pre-pay the 2 RT-PCR tests for day 1 and 5.  The prepayment for day 1 must include accommodation, PCR test and a prearranged transfer from the airport to the hotel.

Travellers can book 2 different hotels for day 1 & 5 accommodation but they must stay within the room for the PCR test result.

The announcement has been cautiously welcomed by some in the Thai tourism industry who have called for a reduction in the PCR test fees that travellers must pay, citing that the extra restrictions and costs will deter many tourists.

New Sandbox Destinations

New destinations will be added to the The Sandbox scheme 1st February with the following destinations added:

Chon Buri

  • Bang Lamung,
  • Pattaya,
  • Si Racha,
  • Si Chang,
  • Sattahip (Na Jomtien and Bang Saray only)

Trat

  • Koh Chang

Sandbox Extension Relaunched

The Sandbox Extension programme will also be introduced on 1st February.

The extension means that travellers can move between Phuket, Phang-Nga, Krabi, and Surat Thani (Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan, and Koh Tao) during their first 7 days in Thailand and can stay in up to 3 different hotels.

Source: Tourism Authority of Thailand

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Thailand Quarantine Free Travel To Return

Authorities in Thailand have today announced that the Test & GO scheme, suspended prior to Christmas, will be reinstated from 1st February.

Test & GO had seen visitor numbers increase in the seven weeks since it was introduced at the start of November. The scheme allowed fully vaccinated visitors to travel to Thailand without having to undertake any quarantine, once they had passed an initial Covid-19 test on arrival isolated in their approved hotel room. They would then be required to just undertake an ATK test on day 5/6 of their visit.

The revised Test & GO will require an additional test on day 5 of their visit, it is thought that this will be another PCR test although that is not confirmed at the present time. All travellers will also be required to have their whereabouts tracked to ensure they can be contacted in the event of further outbreaks.

The Test & GO scheme will be monitored however and may see further changes if there are significant increases in cases.

“In case there are more infections or the situation changes, there will be a re-assessment for inbound travellers and adjust toward the Sandbox scheme.”

Taweesilp Wisanuyothin, Spokesperson Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) via Bangkok Post

The Sandbox is currently the only method of entry to Thailand without undertaking a full quarantine.

Initially allowed just in Phuket, it was expanded to Koh Samui, Krabi and Phang Nga earlier this month.

The scheme will now be extended further to Pattaya and Koh Chang.

Tourists entering under the Sandbox must remain in the permitted area for at least the first 7 days of their visit.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) also announced that restaurants in permitted areas would be allowed to serve alcohol until 11pm, currently they are only allowed to serve until 9pm.

Bars and nightclubs will remain closed however.

We will update all of our information once we have official confirmation of the full details.

Source: REUTERS & Bangkok Post

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