6th October 2020
We have scoured the internet, consulted with our sources and read press releases to find the latest tourism news from South East Asia.
We also regularly update our COVID-19 and South East Asia statistics.
Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung has announced that a COVID-19 testing laboratory will be set up at Changi Airport as a key part in reopening borders. He stated that pre-flight testing was increasingly seen as being the answer with vaccinations unlikely to be the short-term answer.
He is quoted as saying “With high-sensitivity tests, we can filter out the virus at the border, better still before the traveller boards the plane, and significantly mitigate the risk of importing and spreading the virus in Singapore.”
“In other words, on a selective basis, we can open up our border, do away with border closures….. and replace them with tests.”
He also talked about improvements to testing, reducing the time for results as well as less intrusive rapid tests currently being trialled.
Air Travel Bubbles
Singapore are reported to be looking into the introduction of Air Travel Bubbles. These would be put in place with countries or regions deemed to be safe and would not require a set itinerary which are required under the current Reciprocal Green Lane Arrangements.
To reduce risks the Air Travel Bubbles are likely to include a daily quota on travellers who would have to apply for Air Travel Passes prior to starting their journey.
Singapore already has Reciprocal Green Lane Arrangements in place with Brunei, China, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea as well as open borders with all travellers from Australia (apart from Victoria), Brunei, New Zealand and Vietnam. Singapore also allows international transfers with selected flights and destinations.
Thailand Special Tourist Visa
The recently announced Thailand Special Tourist Visa (STV) has experienced delays but is moving ahead according to Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
He recently said “The first two groups from China had a prospective schedule of Oct 8, but as we need to settle some entry processes, those itineraries have to be rescheduled to another date in October.”
The plan is still to allow up 1,200 tourists to enter during October into any province hosting alternative local state quarantine (ALSQ) facilities and not just Bangkok and Phuket as had been originally reported.
The scheme will be closely monitored for the first 30 days before a decision is made if the quarantine period can be reduced to 7 days. However Mr Phiphat refused to rush the reduction in quarantine to allow more short term travellers saying “The so-called 14-7-6 formula (14 day, 7 day, 6 hour quarantines) is on the radar, but we need to see how it goes step by step. The most important factor is that nobody in local communities will be happy to let foreign tourists visit their towns without quarantine.”
There have been increasing calls for tourism to be further opened to protect the economy. Further delays to opening the borders would mean that airlines would not have time to schedule and sell flights.
Chairat Trairattanajaratporn, Chairman of the Tourism Council of Thailand has said that Thailand is at risk of losing 99.5% of its visitors and more than 99% of revenue will be lost in the final quarter of the year, high season.
Pailin Chuchottaworn, who has been heading up an economic recovery panel was quoted as saying, “Currently, tourism is an important priority. If the country does not re-open, it will be hard for GDP to grow because the country’s economy depends mainly on the tourism industry and exports.”
Malaysia to Re-open Borders?
Director-General of Tourism Malaysia Datuk Musa Yusof was recently quoted as saying “From the tourism point of view, hopefully, we should see some movement by the first quarter of next year. This is what I mean by green travel bubbles.
As an example, Malaysia and Singapore have allowed cross-border travel already, but for essential services only, and not for leisure yet. If this goes well, and no untoward issues arise, God willing, leisure (travel) will begin.”
As reported in our Malaysia Tourism Update the initial priority will be tourism with countries where there is no requirement for plane travel. “We are looking at countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, and even Indonesia. These are the four nations that we are examining and reviewing as to whether travel can be allowed” he added.
Da Nang Re-opens to Tourists
DA Nang was placed into lockdown in July following a COVID-19 outbreak. On 4th October the first domestic tourists arrived in the city as restrictions were lifted.
Vietnam continues to reply on domestic tourism.
A recent survey by Vietnam’s Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) and VnExpress showed that 41% of respondents had made plans to travel internally before the end of 2020. Da Nang was the second most popular destination with almost 21% stating that they intended to visit the city.
Domestic flights have continued to grow with additional flights and frequency of flights in recent days.
Boracay Island Re-opens
Boracay Beach and the mountain city of Baguio in the Philippines have both re-opened to limited numbers of domestic tourists.
It’s reported that just 35 tourists visited Boracay on the first day.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that “Many lose their jobs, and we need to find a way to restart tourism, to restart the economy, but with health and safety protocols.”
The acting Mayor of Malay in Aklan Province Frolibar Bautista said “I’m very happy that after many months, we were able to open Boracay for all tourists…. I’m expecting that many will come.”
At the present time only domestic tourists from regions with low-level quarantine designations could visit following negative COVID-19 tests.
Singapore Airlines are continuing to increase the number of flights operating with the aim of reaching 15% of its normal passenger capacity by the end of 2020.
Singapore and regional operator SilkAir are restarting flights to Brunei, Fukuoka (Japan), Kathmandu (Nepal) and Male (Maldives) as well as increasing the frequency of flights already operating.
They expect to be still operating at less than 50% by March 2021.
It has been reported that Thai Airways will introduce Economy Plus seating on flights between Bangkok and Frankfort and London, starting on 25th October.
Economy Plus passengers would benefit from priority check-in, 5kg additional baggage allowance and Business Class meals.
Further details are not currently available. We went through the booking process on the Thai Airways website and Economy Plus was shown as an option in the initial search, but there didn’t seem to be the ability to actual find or purchase seats.
Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics
Indonesia has become the first signatory for the FCTE created to ensure global tourism is fair, inclusive, more transparent, and works for everyone.
The signing ceremony was hosted by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and is hoped will be the first step in introducing a legally binding ethical code for tourism.
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