Southeast Asia Tourism Situation

In March 2020 international borders throughout Southeast Asia closed to travellers apart from in exceptional circumstances.

Main picture Phuket sea scene in Thailand credit Jeff on flickr

Over the last few months options to travel in the area have started to increase but most countries remain closed to the majority of people.

There are increasing hopes that additional areas of Southeast Asia will start to reopen to tourists in the coming weeks and months. It is however far from certain and we have seen a number of changes already to opening plans and dates.

Here is the latest update for all 11 Southeast Asian countries.

Brunei

Brunei and Singapore recently launched a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) which allows fully vaccinated travellers to move between the two countries. Only minimal numbers are reported to have utilised the scheme so far.

There have been no further updates on when Brunei may reopen to tourists from elsewhere.

Cambodia

Although the country has not yet announced reopening plans there is increasing confidence that Cambodia will start to welcome tourists back in the coming months.

Cambodia has undertaken a highly successful Covid-19 vaccination programme that has resulted in being in the world’s top 20 most vaccinated countries and Phnom Penh is the most vaccinated capital city in the world.

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Tourism leaders are calling for opening plans to be announced sooner rather than later and the Prime Minister has suggested that plans will be forthcoming soon.

Indonesia

Indonesia has been hit especially hard by the pandemic recording more than 4.2 million cases and in excess of 141,000 deaths.

Cases are now being seen as being under control and hopes are increasing that tourists will be welcomed back to controlled areas by the end of the year.

The Indonesian government recently said that if conditions continue to improve, Bali would welcome back foreign tourists from as early as November.

Laos

There have been no updates on when Laos may reopen to tourists.

Malaysia

Malaysia recently launched an internal travel scheme to Langkawi and the first tourists landed on 16th September.

Tourists arrive at the airport as Langkawi reopens to domestic tourists, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Malaysia September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

It is hoped to add further areas of Malaysia soon.

The success of the programmes will determine how soon the country feels able to allow foreign travellers to return to the country.

Myanmar (Burma)

There have been no updates on when Myanmar may reopen to tourists. The military coup that took place earlier this year and continuing unrest means that safe travel is unlikely to resume any time soon.

Philippines

The Philippines is working on plans to replicate the Phuket Sandbox model which allows fully vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries, visit specific areas without the need to quarantine.

Cebu has been mentioned as the first destination in the country which, like Phuket, benefits from its international airport and island location.

Kawasan Falls, Cebu, Philippines

At the present time there has not been an announcement of a reopening date.

Singapore

Singapore recently opened Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) arrangements with Brunei and Germany that allows fully vaccinated travellers to move between the countries.

The plan has been largely welcomed and seen as a success and there are suggestions that it will be expanded to include further countries soon.

However Singapore has seen an increase in Covid-19 cases, unrelated to foreign travellers, and recently recorded the largest daily increase in cases throughout the pandemic.

Government officials have played down the increased cases and suggested that they are confident that the VTL will continue as planned.

Thailand

Thailand was the first country in Southeast Asia to welcome back tourists and did so without the need for quarantine with the Phuket Sandbox which launched on 1st July. Prior to this Thailand had a number of very small-scale quarantine programmes.

The Phuket Sandbox was seen as a model for other countries around the world, especially throughout the region.

It allows fully vaccinated travellers to visit without the need to quarantine although a pre-departure and three post arrival Covid-19 tests are required. They are able to visit other areas of Thailand after 14 days.

A plane carrying the first foreign tourists to arrive at the airport as Phuket reopens to overseas tourists, allowing foreigners fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to visit the resort island without quarantine, receives a water cannon salute from fire trucks in Phuket, Thailand. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

On 15th July Samui Plus was launched in Surat Thani (Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan, or Koh Tao) but with more strict restrictions saw very few people taking advantage of the scheme. There are hopes that the Sandbox conditions will be replicated in Surat Thani soon.

More recently the Phuket Sandbox 7+7 Extension was launched. This allowed travellers to visit Phuket for 7 days and then travel to specific areas in Surat Thani, Krabi (Koh Phi Phi, Koh Ngai, or Railay) and Phang-Nga (Khao Lak or Koh Yao) for the following 7 days. It is hoped that additional areas of Krabi will be added soon.

There are hopes that further areas of Thailand will be added to the Extension zones from 15th October but nothing has yet been confirmed.

Five further areas of Thailand, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Cha Am, were due to open on 1st October but a slow vaccination rate and, in some cases, worrying Covid-19 cases, has led to a delay until at least 1st November.

Many prospective tourists have found that the application process has been confusing and complicated made worse due to different requirements in Phuket and Samui and then for the extension. There are plans to simplify the process and procedures but a date has not yet been confirmed.

Timor-Leste

There have been no updates on when Timor-Leste may reopen to tourists.

Vietnam

The Phu Quoc Sandbox was due to begin in October but a slower than hoped for vaccination programme and a recent Covid outbreak has meant that the plans will now be delayed until at least 20th November.

The plan would allow limited numbers of vaccinated travellers from select countries visiting the island.

Other areas of Vietnam have also expressed the desire to reopen to foreign travellers but it seems that it is unlikely until next year.

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Published by flyingdogtravel

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