|Update: It’s been clarified that hotels will not be able to take in any staycation guests during this period. However, guests who check in before 7 April will be allowed to continue staying. The point still stands though- if you’re booked to stay before 7 April, please stay home instead|
So, yesterday the Prime Minister announced the “circuit breaker”, which closes most workplaces islandwide and moves all schools to full home-based learning. You’ve no doubt read the full details in various media outlets, so I’ll just leave you with this infographic from CNA.
What’s happening with staycations?
|Selected hotels, serviced apartments, dormitories, hostels|
a. This includes establishments supporting SHN; GQF; CIF and accommodation needs of students, foreigners, and foreign workers affected by travel restrictions, as well as for existing occupants only.
b. Hotels must close all on-site recreational facilities. Their F&B facilities may remain open only for takeaway or delivery. Hotels must also minimise the numbers of on-site staffing. All hotel staff who can perform their roles remotely (e.g., finance, HR) must telecommute.
There seems to be some uncertainty regarding how this directive will be implemented, because it suggests that “selected” hotels will be allowed to remain open, and that “existing occupants” are still OK.
That’s led to a varied response from hotels so far. Some, like Marina Bay Sands (MBS), have taken steps to halt operations from 7 April, cancelling all reservations until 4 May 2020.
- Some said it was business-as-usual, with reservations for staycations still being accepted even during the circuit breaker period
- Others said that they wouldn’t be taking any new reservations with arrival dates from 7 Apr-4 May, but would honor any reservations made up till then
- Still others said they wouldn’t accept staycation bookings, but would accommodate foreigners stranded in Singapore
The common thread I got from the calls was that “management is still discussing the situation”, so I imagine there’ll be some clarity in the days ahead. I think one of the reasons for the discrepancy is that some hotels may be involved in the implementation of SHN, or accommodating foreign workers stranded in Singapore.
Moreover, just how do you identify who’s doing a staycation? Do you look at the passport they hold? There may be Singaporeans who normally live overseas and don’t have a regular place of abode in Singapore. There may be foreigners who live here under an employment or long-term visit pass.
Assuming there’s a way of reliably identifying such guests (and I’m sure there is, my brain’s just too fried to think of it), I’d be very surprised if all staycations during the circuit breaker weren’t cancelled. But even if they aren’t, may I suggest that now just isn’t the time to do one?
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got one lined up in the short time left before the circuit breaker kicks in, or if you’re due to stay in the next couple of weeks. If you can cancel and get your money back, you should.
There are two reasons that come to mind.
The first is pure self-interest. All recreational facilities in the hotel will be closed, so there’ll be no lazing by the pool or working out in the gym. All F&B establishments will be take-away only, so there’s no opulent breakfast buffet spread. Any activities the hotel might normally organize will be cancelled, and you’re basically going to stay like an SHN resident, just that you get to leave your room. It’s simply not worth paying good money for such a watered-down experience.
The second is public interest. The instructions from the government are clear: stay home as much as possible. Go out only for daily necessities, essential services or urgent medical needs. A staycation doesn’t fall into any of those categories.
I mean, if we shake our head at reports of people flocking to clubs just before they shut down, how is it any different if we rush out to book staycations before the same happens to hotels? Yes, the average density of a hotel is lower than that of a nightclub, but the bigger issue is about honoring the spirit of the law, rather than the letter.
I’d like to think that the vast majority of hotels will be reasonable about cancellations in light of the government’s new directives, and provide a full refund, if not a credit for a future stay. And there will be a future stay. Coivd-19 will end eventually. Maybe we develop a vaccine. Maybe it mutates into something less harmful. Maybe it disappears like SARS. I don’t know. What I do know is that one way or another, normal life will return, and then we can do all the staycations we want.
The circuit breaker is not another random event in an endless fight against this disease. The circuit breaker is strategy. People stay home. Virus spread is reduced. Those who are sick recover. Fewer carriers exist. Strain on our healthcare system is lowered. Virus spread is reduced further.
There is a plan, and there is a finish line. The circuit breaker is a big step in getting there.
If you have a staycation planned before or during the circuit breaker, please, please consider staying home instead. Cancel online if you’re still outside the penalty period, call up the hotel and work something out otherwise.
The next few weeks are crucial in the fight against Covid-19. If we can come out of two full incubation periods without a spike in cases, we’ll be that much closer to getting back to normal life. Eating out with family. Shopping on the weekends. Watching a movie. Attending church. Going on holidays.
That’s well worth a delayed staycation to me.