NZ Chamber (Singapore) MIQ survey: 9-12 July 2021

Author: Monica Portillo

A survey conducted by the NZ Chamber Singapore on the Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ) booking system has delivered a resounding thumbs-down from its members. With over 130 responses received this past weekend, New Zealanders in Singapore gave the MIQ system an abysmal rating of -81 on the Net Promoter Score (NPS)*. Significantly, 70 respondents rated the system only 1 out of 10, the lowest possible score.

The survey results highlight the difficulties faced by NZ Chamber Singapore members in trying to secure vouchers in MIQ after last week’s latest release of vouchers. One respondent felt “heartbroken that all the November MIQ spots went in under an hour”. Others were frustrated at spending weeks refreshing the site and staying up all night to try to secure spots. “The level of desperation and mad time wastage is biased towards those who have time to sit on a device all day and refresh”. The inability to get home is particularly hard for those who have lost jobs and the right to remain in another country.

In general, criticisms levelled at the NZ govt’s MIQ system fell under four categories:

  1. The ad hoc release of vouchers creates a “lottery” approach: unless you can monitor the MIQ website hourly, you will not secure an MIQ voucher. This is, in turn, creates a profiteering opportunity for technologically-savvy individuals or companies offering to secure the voucher, albeit at a hefty price: blocking vouchers real-time, either through persons acting others’ behalf, or through ‘bots’ that in micro-seconds can refresh and prefill online forms, always beating human reaction times. “The current system reminds me of scalpers selling tickets to a concert but on a much more personal/emotional level”, remarked one member.
  2. The unpredictability of the system is taking a toll on mental health: anxiety over future trips and the uncertainty of being able to go home. One respondent talked about this stress, on top of losing a job (and the right to stay in Singapore) "this system has nearly broken me".
  3. The technology and design of the system was seen as outdated and slow, with frequent bugs. It came across to one New Zealand chamber member as “an inappropriate low-performance reinvention of the kind of systems airlines/hotels/online travel agencies have refined over the past 20 years".

Suggestions for improvement from members included:

a. allocating MIQ vouchers with airline tickets, and avoid the system altogether;

b. outsourcing the MIQ booking system to a Ticketing expert, like Ticketek;

c. having a waiting list and being advised of where you are in the priority allocation; and

d. charging upfront for MIQ, to ensure people pay.

The supply and demand side of MIQ was considered insufficient and requiring improvement.

  • With the Christmas season, and a higher number of New Zealanders returning home to visit family and loved ones, the supply of the rooms should be increased;
  • On the demand side, there could be more flexible systems to reduce demand for MIQ spaces by allowing low-risk country (such as Singapore) returnees to either not quarantine, or quarantine at home after negative tests on arrival (as is the highly effective system in Singapore). “The NZ government should adopt a risk-based approach depending on the country a traveller is from” suggested one Kiwi respondent.

Finally, members expressed concerns about an inflexible and static policy approach of the NZ government towards MIQ. Border closures were described by one New Zealander in Singapore as being a “one-trick pony that doesn’t adapt and evolve”. This is different to other countries with high vaccination rates, like Singapore, which can now plan for an accelerated transition of Covid-19 from pandemic to endemic status, and thus a faster return to pre-pandemic economic and social life.

* Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a widely used market research metric that typically takes the form of a single survey question asking respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company, product, or a service to a friend or colleague.