Are Staycations Here to Stay?

Imagine waking up in a bed with new sheets; the sun peeking through the heavy curtains. Draw them and the view beyond the window unveils: not the topless uncle from the block across the road, but the Singapore skyline in all its glory.

In that moment, you forget that home is just half an hour away; you forget that geographically, youā€™re still within the same red dot because it’s time to grab a bathrobe, prepare to soak in a bathtub filled with bath bombs and call for room service to send up breakfast.

Enter staycations: a look at its origins.

The itch to travel is real. This was proven when three hours after the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble was announced in November with regards to the resumption of cross-border flights, the search volume of flights from Singapore to Hong Kong grew by 200%, followed by a 150% increase for hotels.

But unfortunately, hiccups occurred which derailed plans for the travel bubble to successfully take off, much to the dismay of avid travellers.

With borders closed, it seems the only place for a vacation, is within the confines of our own country. But while staycations are all the rage now, it isnā€™t a new phenomenon āˆ’ the term that blends the words ‘stay’ and ‘vacation’ can be traced back more than a decade ago, subsequently entering the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary in 2009.

In fact, the event that spurred on this concept of spending a holiday in one’s home country rather than abroad or staying at home and going on day trips to local attractions, was the financial crisis in the United States from 2007 to 2010. With hikes in gas prices, many cut back on travel expenses and resorted to exploring their own backyard instead. Benefits were aplenty ā€” savings could be made by forgoing expensive plane tickets and long waits at the airport could be avoided, and for those who donā€™t leave home entirely, transport fees and accommodation costs were minimal.

Additionally, at the time, the negative environmental impact of tourism had also began to create conversations. Planes, which are known to release greenhouse gases directly into the higher areas of the atmosphere, are one of the perpetrators of climate change. The opportunity to reduce one’s carbon footprint through staycations rather than faraway holidays greatly appeals to travellers who still want to experience new landscapes but wish to minimise their impact on the environment.

Relaxing and indulging in hotel facilities.

In Singapore, staycations were a thing even before the pandemic hit our shores last year. In a survey done by Klook at the end of December 2020, 80% of Singaporeans said theyā€™ve gone on a staycation. For teacher, Nurul Afiah Abdul Rashid, she indulges in a staycation twice to three times a year with family or friends. Her propose is clear: to unwind and use hotel facilities like the bathtub and pool.

She shares: “I typically will relax in the room when I check-in, I mean I am paying for the room after all. In terms of hotel facilities, Iā€™ll use the swimming pool and a sauna or steam room (if they have one, quite rare to find now though). I also enjoy room service a lot so I’ll order room service for breakfast sometimes.” Her requirements appear to be in line with the Klook’s findings ā€” the top three must-haves for Singaporeans on staycations are bathtubs, swimming pools, and good food!

An avid traveller who normally goes abroad for holiday every December, Nurul Afiah had to skip her yearly routine due to travel restrictions. Replacing it with a staycation instead, she believes that the biggest takeaway for her local experience is being able to “immerse in a different physical space, pretending I am on holiday and to have everything like cooking and cleaning taken care of”. She already has made plans for another in March during the school holidays and in coincidentally being invited by a friend for a staycation this weekend.

An opportunity to indulge in each other.

The survey also revealed that nine in ten couples would do staycations just to have some private intimate time together. For 20-something couple, Janet Phua and Shawn Lim (not their real names), this is exactly the case. Considered precious couple time, Janet shares that a typical staycation for the couple consists of “netflix and chill, both literally and figuratively” and is a good way to spend quality time together and get away from the daily grind. Shawn agrees: “The appeal probably lies in the detachment from work and reality and the opportunity to treat oneself, albeit for a short while.”

As they do not have a place of their own yet, Janet reveals that a staycation allows them to indulge in a fantasy that they do. “Going for a staycation allows us the space to do whatever we want without having to take into consideration our family members. Thereā€™s a certain freedom that comes with having a space of our own for those few days; we can be slobs all we want and it doesnā€™t matter, especially when thereā€™s housekeeping.”

She adds that it “gives the illusion that you are travelling even though youā€™re still stuck in Singapore” and is willing to fork out money for the experience and time that it buys her. The couple also takes this opportunity to be tourists in their own backyards and explore places they wouldnā€™t usually visit since they’re both homebodies.

Pretending to be on vacation may be enough to make you happy.

For 34-year-old legal advisor Nurul Huda Padulli, a Singaporean who’s been stationed in Geneva for work over the past year, staycations are a staple in her life. Enjoying the experience every six to eight months on average, this year’s was spent in a hotel within the Swiss city despite living in an apartment close by. She had wanted to catch a glimpse of the annual New Year fireworks but the event was cancelled; despite the disappointment, she admits that the appeal of staycations is the change of scenery.

She shares: “I think it provides people with a sense that they went on holiday but without the hassle of travel. In COVID times when you canā€™t even travel, staycations are a good alternative. When I arrive back home after a staycation, I actually do feel the same feelings and emotions as when I arrive home from a holiday overseas, so Iā€™m sure it releases the same kind of hormones.”

The hormones that she is referring to may be linked to the travel bug that people catch before embarking on an outward journey ā€” when we anticipate something fun like a vacation, our brain triggers a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The high doesn’t end there; a study from South Korea found that, on average, life satisfaction rose 15 days before travel and lasted for about one month after returning home. And if a staycation is as good as vacation abroad, then maybe travel is a luxury we could do without.

Will staycations take over travel altogether?

Staycations arose because of a global crisis, and now is rising again due to a pandemic. Although many are turning to staycations now because of travel restrictions, could it contribute to a long-lasting change that people are willing to adopt in place of travel? Considering the benefits of cost-savings, reduced environmental impact, and similar rewards of rest and respite from the daily grind, will we continue to pursue staycations even after borders are open? With more Singaporeans enjoying the experience now, especially with the help of reDiscover Singapore vouchers, only time will tell if staycations are here to stay for good.


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