WHILE some are seizing the upcoming long weekend as an opportunity to travel regionally and beyond, others are opting for staycations to celebrate SG50 at home in Singapore.
Hotels with a vantage view of the festivities are reporting brisk business with a mix of local and overseas guests, so booking last-minute rooms for National Day weekend at a choice hotel in the Padang or Marina Bay area may come with a premium price tag.
An online check showed that available rooms at certain luxury hotels - such as The Westin, Mandarin Oriental, Pan Pacific and Raffles Hotel - now range from S$550 to S$950 per night.
"There is definitely an increase in interest and bookings from Singaporeans who decided to 'stay home' and celebrate this milestone with other fellow citizens," said Cheong Hai Poh, general manager of the Grand Park City Hall, who expects the hotel to be full next weekend. In light of SG50, Grand Park City Hall is offering a three-day package that includes one free night till Dec 31.
The 2,561-room Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is close to fully booked, with strong demand from both locals and tourists. While the hotel is generally a popular venue for National Day, the "hive of SG50 activities in the area serves to add to our appeal", said MBS director of communications Val Chua. Entry to the ArtScience Museum will be free for Singapore residents on Aug 7-9, while MBS's celebrity chef restaurants are crafting special SG50 menus in honour of the nation's 50th birthday.
The Marina Mandarin is close to sold out for the Golden Jubilee weekend, with the majority of bookings from locals as well as permanent residents. Rooms start at S$400++ per night, with a minimum three-night stay, and the hotel is also running a waiting list for Bay-facing rooms. Other SG50-styled promotions in August include a S$50 nett lunch buffet for Singaporeans at its Aquamarine restaurant, while its Chinese restaurant Peach Blossoms is offering an entire Peking duck at S$50++.
Meanwhile, the Mandarin Oriental reported "healthy and encouraging occupancy figures" from a mix of locals and overseas visitors, while The Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel The Stamford hotels are also expecting full occupancy. Both the Fairmont and Swissôtel have launched a series of two-night room packages starting from S$2,265.50, inclusive of daily breakfast and parking.
"With unrivalled views of the Marina Bay and Padang, more Singaporeans have booked the room packages over the long weekend," said Ng Sok Hia, executive assistant manager, (sales and marketing) for Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel The Stamford.
At the same time, the four-day weekend has others packing their bags. A report from travel technology firm Sojern reveals that outbound travel from Singapore to South-east Asia, East Asia and South Asia is up 59 per cent, 72 per cent and 96 per cent respectively in the run-up to Aug 9. This is compared against a correponding period in July.
Outbound travel is also higher for mid/long-haul markets such as the Middle East (67 per cent), Eastern Europe (56 per cent) and North America (32 per cent), suggesting that some have tacked on a few extra days for an extended stay.
Most travellers are leaving town on Friday (Aug 7), though traffic on Thursday shows the biggest jump in growth at 3.6 times vis-a-vis the week earlier.
Travel search engine Skyscanner found that searches for flights departing Singapore on Aug 7 have surged 224 per cent year on year, with Bangkok, Bali and Hong Kong emerging as the top three choices.
At travel agency Chan Brothers, outbound bookings are up 200 per cent for the extended four-day "weekend" in comparison to a regular weekend. A three-day weekend usually commands a 50 per cent jump in the number of travellers, said Jane Chang, Chan Brothers' head of communications. Travellers are also opting to go further this year to destinations such as Australia, Europe, China or South Korea.
And while inbound travel to Singapore is "rather flat" next weekend, those coming here ahead of the celebrations plan to stay for more than eight days, Sojern's report highlighted.
"We do see a spike in travel the weekend before, on Aug 1, (with) 70 per cent more inbound travel than the same day a week prior," the report said.