Pandemic Impact on Southeast Asia Tourism

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastaing impact on countries throughout the world and tourism, a major contributor to the economy in many countries, has been especially hard-hit.

Main picture Langkawi, Malaysia credit R C on Unsplash

Next Vacay have published their research into the impact of the pandemic which includes an estimated loss of US$13.5 billion to the Thai economy and US$9 billion to the Philippine and Malaysian economies through tourism restrictions in 2020 alone.

Next Vacay is a travel company that sends flight deal alerts to its members, making the dream of travel into a reality.

The table below demonstrates the impact of the pandemic on average visitors per month in 2020 compared to 2019.

RankCountryAv Monthly Visitors 2019Av Monthly Visitors 2020% Fall
Figures from Next Vacay

The figures for 2021 are likely to be even worse for Southeast Asian countries. In 2020 the high season months of January and February were normal and very successful in terms of the number of visitors. High season will generally be missed for most Southeast Asia destinations this year.

The Philippines lost US$9.7b throughout 2020

The Philippines is made up of 7,641 islands, with 5,000 still being unnamed and largely unexplored. It’s that mystery and natural beauty that explains why tourism is responsible for a quarter (24.6%) of contributions to their annual GDP.

Covid saw the island group cut off from the rest of the world, costing their economy US$9.76 billion in much needed income.

Malaysia saw US$9.08b taken off its annual earnings

Malaysia is a thriving mix of history and technology, with the world famous Petronas Towers dominating the Kuala Lumpur skyline, while four World Heritage Sites give you glimpses into the nation’s incredible past.

But while the island group’s history might be inspiring, its future is looking far more concerning. Their visitor numbers were slashed from 2.17 billion a month in 2019 to 361,060 in 2020, costing them US$9.08 billion in income.

How To Support Tourism and the Local Economy

Naveen Dittakavi, founder and CEO of Next Vacay, has some tips on how to support the local economy:

  • Create a more authentic experience and stay in the local hotels rather than chains
  • When you visit attractions, hire a local tour guide. Not only will you be supporting the local economy, but you’ll also be adding a new experience to your trip. 
  • Buy souvenirs from street vendors and local businesses rather than duty-free. 
  • Eat like the locals. There are plenty of independent restaurants run by locals where you can experience the culture through their cuisine rather than sticking to larger chains.
  • Leave good reviews online for places you’ve enjoyed to help bring in new customers.

Southeast Asia is Opening For Tourism

Now is the time to think of your next holoday to Southeast Asia, with borders, slowly starting to reopen, and communities ready to welcome you back.

Please check the details for each country carefully before boking travel. Currently only fully vaccinated travellers, with negative Covid-19 results, are generally allowed to visit any Southeast Asia countries without increased restrictions.


The Land of Smiles was the first destination in Southeast Asia to reopen with the pilot project the Phuket Sandbox starting on 1st July.

From 1st November visitors from 46 low-risk countries will be abel to visit Thailand quarantine-free. Travellers from other countries will be allowed to visit Blue Zone areas.


Visitors from 10 countries can now visit Singapore quarantine-free through the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) scheme with one more, Australia proposed to follow soon.


On 14th October Bali opened its border to foreign tourists from 19 countries although they must undergo a 5 day hotel quarantine on arrival.


Five areas of Vietnam, including Phu Quoc, Hoi An, da Nang and Ha Long Bay are scheduled to reopen on 20th November. Visitors will however have to undertake a 7 day hotel resort quarantine on arrival.


Three areas of Cambodia will reopen to foreign tourists from 30th November with one more, siem Reap / angkor Wat, following in January.


Malaysia has announced that Langkawi will reopen to forign travellers from 15th November with the rest of the country following at a, yet to be confirmed, later date.

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Published by flyingdogtravel

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