Photo Bali Beach Vibes. Credit Timo Wagner on Unsplash
Southeast Asia has, for the most part, been closed to foreign tourists for almost a year since borders started to be closed during March last year.
After a couple of false starts, raised hopes, and gradual relaxation programmes, there is finally real hope that tourism will start to become available again in the region later this year.
Where Is Open?
In theory Thailand is your best chance at the moment however the restrictions in place willput off the vast majority of people. Compulsory 14-day quarantine and a series of negative Covid-19 PCR tests are all required before you are allowed to travel freely. Villa and Golf quarantine are both available but are not cheap options.
Singapore has a number of travel corridor / bubbles but there are again strict controls and restrictions in place.
Currently there are no countries or regions with confirmed opening or relaxation dates. Much will depend on the local and global vaccination drive.
The global vaccination programme against Covid-19 continues to expand and 1 billion people are estimated will have received the vaccine by the middle of the year, mostly in countries that traditionally will travel into the Southeast Asia region.
The progress in the region however is likely to be much slower with many countries not expecting significant coverage of the population until 2022. Some countries are experiencing issues with significant numbers of the population refusing vaccines due to concerns over ingredients, effectiveness and side-effects the majority of which have been show to be false but rumours and misinformation continue to circulate widely.
The majority of countries are unlikely to allow foreign tourists until either significant numbers of their population have been inoculated or there is significant evidence that vaccines reduce transmission rate.
According to the BBC the current situation in the ASEAN region is:
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Vaccine passports are all the talk in the travel industry and are seen by many as being the lifeline required to kickstart international travel.
The idea of a vaccine passport is that it records vaccinations (potentially not just Covid vaccines but other relevant inoculations as well) and possibly Covid test results. This would then allow you to enter a country and qualify for either reduced restrictions or none at all in some cases.
Security, privacy, accuracy and possible forgery are all issues that have been raised with vaccine passports.
There are a number in development including the IATA Travel Pass which enters its next stage of trials with Singapore Airlines from 15th March on the London – Singapore route.
Why Book Now?
Prices at the moment and very low for flights and accommodation as companies do everything they can to attract customers.
There is likely to be a significant interest in booking flights and holidays once it is confirmed that borders will be reopening.
Capacity on flights and potentially hotels will be be much lower than pre-pandemic levels, at least initially, which will mean that prices will increase until availability starts to increase again once confidence starts to increase among travel companies.
The risk of booking now is the same as it has been for most of the last year. Will you lose money or be restricted into future booking arrangements.
Many airlines, travel companies and insurance providers now have added benefits and protections for the customer. We recommend researching any bookings thoroughly before making payments to ensure that you are happy with the protection provided. In many cases, especially through Europe and the United Kingdom, booking flights and accommodation together provides additional protection.
Where Will Open First?
The big question that everyone is trying to answer. Here we try and give some insight in the current situation and what may happen.
Nothing is confirmed though and things can change very quickly. We will continue to monitor the situation in the regions and let you know when anything is confirmed or any significant rumours or proposals.
Thailand look to be the best bet although there is so much talk at the moment that it is hard to see what is fact and what is hope. It seems a good bet that restrictions will ease for vaccinated travellers from October at the latest although there is also the possibility that this could happen as soon as next month. There have been calls from industry bodies within the country to remove quarantine altogether from June for vaccinated travellers and the Open Thailand Safely campaign is calling for a July opening.
We will know more next Monday when a number of proposals are being discussed in the country.
At the moment it looks unlikely that Malaysia will open soon. At the start of this month the Malaysia health director-general was reported as saying that the ban on international, interstate and inter-district would continue until at least 70% of the population had been vaccinated against Covid-19, which may not be until early 2022.
In Bali more than 50,000 workers in the tourism industry have been registered for the island’s Covid-19 vaccination programme as the island looks at measures to reopen borders. The hope is that once the vaccination programme has been completed, tourists will be able to be welcomed back to the island.
Initially the island will target countries deemed to be low-risk with the creation of travel bubbles.
It seems unlikely that the rest of Indonesia will open as soon due to the high numbers of current infections and some local resistance to the vaccine
Singapore have already introduced a number of travel programmes although their success have been mixed. At the moment there have been no rumours of opening dates but their vaccination programme is the most advanced in the region and there seems to be a good possibility that restrictions will lift later in the year.
Until yesterday it seemed highly unlikely that Vietnam would be a safe bet for this year.
Yesterday however we had the first glimmer of hope as the Vietnam Tourism Association called for vaccinated travellers to be welcomed to the country from as early as July.
We have seen many similar calls from organisations in Thailand however the political situation in Vietnam is very different and it is possible that the calls have at least some political support within the country.
Things look less hopeful elsewhere.
The Philippines has very high numbers of cases and deaths in the region and are still experiencing significant numbers of ongoing cases. The vaccine process is in its infancy and there is some resistance to the inoculation. Domestic travel is starting to be encouraged.
Myanmar experienced a coup last month and so is likely to be off limits for an extended period while they attempt to restore order.
Cambodia have recently experienced another outbreak although in global terms numbers are still very low. There has been no indication of any timescale for the relaxation of entry restrictions.
All is also very quiet in Brunei, Laos and Timor-Leste.
Covid-19 In Southeast Asia
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