Earth Day Southeast Asia

Philippines credit EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid

Today is Earth Day and we are closely following developments and how they relate to Southeast Asia.

Many people travel to Southeast Asia to experience the incredible natural resources and landscapes that the region has to offer.

It is important therefore to be aware of the environmental impact that we have when travelling and what we can do to minimise our impact and to help preserve the natural environment.

Here we look at some of the work being done on this Earth Day throughout Southeast Asia.

Cambodia

Philippines

Thailand

Indonesia

General

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Earth Day Philippines Face Mask Pollution

Credit Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Face masks are essential in helping to curb the spread of Covid-19 but the increased use of masks, and other PPE, throughout the world has led to a dramatic increase in waste.

It is estimated that 129 billion face masks have been used and disposed of during the pandemic. Much of that waste is ending up in landfills or is finding its way into the natural environment including seas and oceans.

The Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has said that the country has generated 52,000 metric tons of medical waste since the start of the lockdown in March 2020.

“If every Filipino will use a disposable face mask every day, that’s 100 million a day, or 3 billion a month, of disposed face masks.”

Ramon San Pascual, Executive Director Healthcare With Harm Southeast Asia

Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, called the medical waste problem an “ecological crisis.”

Many experts are encouraging people to use reusable face masks and shields wherever possible. They do stress however that they must be used correctly to prevent an increased risk of infection.

Source: Rappler

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Earth Day Thailand Solar Farm

Sirindhorn Dam project credit Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand

Thailand is close to completing one the world’s biggest hydro-floating solar hybrid projects on the surface of a dam, part of steps towards boosting renewable energy production after years of criticism for reliance on fossil fuels.

More than 144,000 solar panel units are being installed at Sirindhorn Dam near to the borders with Cambodia and Laos.

The project is due to be completed in June and will comprise seven solar arms covering 121 hectares (300 acres) of water area.

The project will also be used as a renewable energy learning centre and tourist attraction designed to increase sustainable tourism in the area, providing jobs and income in the province.

The Sirindhorn dam project will generate up to 45 megawatts of power and will be able to switch between solar and hydropower depending on which is most efficient at the time.

The state-run Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand says the pilot project is one of the world’s largest hybrid hydro-solar power ventures and aims to replicate it at eight more dams over the next 16 years.

“When all the projects are completed in every dam, we will have total capacity to generate 2,725 megawatts.”

Chanin Saleechan

After many years of reliance on coal and other fossil fuels for its energy but is aiming to generate 35% of its energy from other fuel sources by 2037.

Picture Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand
Picture Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand

Source: Reuters & Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand

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Vietnam Vaccine Passport Plans Under Fire

Last week we reported that Quang Nam Province had submitted proposals to the Vietnamese government to allow vaccinated foreign travellers to the region.

However the proposals have had a mixed response and many believe that allowing tourists into cordoned off resorts under heavy supervision is not the correct approach.

Pham Trung Luong, the former head of the Hanoi-based Institute for Tourism Development Research, has said that Vietnam should enter negotiations with key countries to agree procedures for vaccine recognition and testing standards.

He also warned that allowing foreign tourists into the country before Vietnam had achieved herd immunity, often described as at least 70% of adults being vaccinated. Although the country is progressing with its vaccine programme it will be 2022 before that is likely to be achieved.

“Currently, countries around the world are using many different Covid-19 vaccines with different testing procedures, so it is necessary to ensure that these certificates are suitable to Vietnam. The nation also needs to build a system to detect fake vaccine passports, which are cropping up in some countries.”

“While herd immunity not yet achieved, potential Covid-19 outbreaks are more likely, even when hosting foreign tourists in cordoned off areas.”

Pham Trung Luong, Associate Professor

Phan Xuan Thanh, president of the Quang Nam Tourism Association, thinks that that the cordon approach is essential for the Vietnamese tourism industry.

“This is a competition and if we do not take the initiative, we will lag behind other countries.”

“Foreign tourists will stay in a separate area, just play golf or use tourism services there and would not travel to other localities.”

Phan Xuan Thanh, President of the Quang Nam Tourism Association,

Dinh Hai, former director of the Quang Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, supports this view stating that the province is ideally situated to welcome foreign travellers with secluded resorts identified near Da Nang.

Under the plan all staff at the resorts would need to be fully vaccinated. Travellers would need to be fully vaccinated and would also be tested for the virus. They would be restricted to hotel facilities and certain other, controlled, activities during their stay.

Source: VNExpress

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Discover Malaysia With New Online Travel Guides

Lankawi, Malaysia credit Jay Tun

Tourism Malaysia has launched a series of new online travel guides including a number of video guides.

The “Interactive Digital Brochures” are part of plans to prepare Malaysia for the return of international tourists once the Covid pandemic is under control.

No recovery in sight for tourism in Malaysia

In addition to the Malaysia Travel Guide (above), they have launched video guides called; Kuala Lumpur the Dazzling Capital City, Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah and Islands and Beaches.

“The digital brochures breathe new life to our PDF brochures that could only be downloaded and printed previously.”

“The new version of these brochures opens a wider dimension and allow users to interact virtually to obtain all the necessary information at the tip of their fingers.” 

Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, Malaysia Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister

Among the other guides available on the site are region and resort guides, birdwatching, dining & entertainment, adventure, scuba diving and national & marine parks.

Islands and Beaches

Kuala Lumpur

Langkawi

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New Restrictions in Phuket

Phuket, Thailand credit Arkady Lukashov on Unsplash

Visitors to Phuket from 18 Red Zone provinces will be required to show proof that they have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine before they are allowed to enter from 30th April.

Visitors will also be required to show proof of a negative PCR test issued within 72 hours of the time of arrival. They will need to download the Mor Chana mobile tracking application and share their GPS location throughout their stay on the island.

End to Phuket Quarantine May Be Delayed

More Restrictions Announced In Thailand

The measures have been announced following the recent increase in Covid cases throughout Thailand following the latest outbreak, including a further 224 cases on Phuket.

“Those who haven’t received two doses of the vaccine or have yet to have the RT-PCR Covid-19 test will be required to take an antigen rapid test upon arrival.” “The test costs 300 baht each, and the results will be known in 15 minutes.”

Narong Woonciew, Chairman Phuket Communicable Diseases Committee

Source: Bangkok Post

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Thai Hotels Closing During Low Season

Krabi, Thailand credit Andreas M on Unsplash

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is forcing many hotels in Thailand to consider closing for the traditionally quieter months from April to October.

The latest Covid outbreak in the country has seen the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began and has spread to many provinces throughout the country.

Thailand today reported a further 1,458 cases and 2 deaths. There have now been 46,643 confirmed cases and 110 deaths in the country.

The “We Travel Together” and “Tour Teaw Thai” schemes were due to help boost domestic tourism from May but it is now uncertain if they will go ahead due to travel restrictions between provinces and the closure of many entertainment businesses to help curb the virus.

The planned end to quarantine for vaccinated travellers for visitors to Phuket from July is also under threat.

Poor demand, which is expected to fall below 10% occupancy, is forcing many hotels, especially those not affiliated to chains, to consider closing until demand increases. The next two weeks are likely to be critical in hotel decision making.

Hotels have been forced to undertake a number of cost-cutting measures to survive since the start of the pandemic. Measures include laying off staff, unpaid leave, compulsory annual leave, salary cuts, alternative working schedules, reduction in working hours and paying 75% of the employee’s salary to protect jobs.

The vaccination programme for tourism has again been stated as key for the survival of many companies in the sector.

“The government has to speed up vaccines for people employed in tourism, especially hotel staff, and those working in hospitals serving non-critical or asymptomatic patients, alternative state and state quarantines.”

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, President Thai Hotels Association

Source: Bangkok Post

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Plans For Direct Flights Between Vietnam And USA

Bamboo Airways plane credit Melvinnnnnnnn on flickr

The ambitious expansion plans of Bamboo Airways conitue following news that it is planning on flying to San Francisco from September.

We recently reported that the Hanoi based airline had secured potentially lucrative landing slots at Heathrow Airport in London, adding to plans for direct flights to Frankfort and Munich in Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic.

Plans for San Francisco include an initial three flights per week usinf Boeng 787 Dreamliners on the 11,750km route.

Last week Trinh Van Quyet, Bamboo Airways Chairman, confirmed that the airline also wanted to begin direct flights to Australia and Japan.

Despite the lack of direct flights, the US was the fifth largest inbound market prior to the pandemic as more than 700,000 Americans entered the country each year.

Source: Simple Flying

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No Recovery in Sight For Tourism In Malaysia

Malaysia credit Ishan Seefromthesky on Unsplash

A tourism expert has predicted that Malaysia may see only 132,000 foreign tourists in 2021, a potential disaster for the travel industry in the country.

In 2019 more than 26 million foreign tourists came to Malaysia. That plummeted to just 4.3 million in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic closed international borders.

Now tourism and transport industry consultant Y.S. Chan has said that the continuing pandemic and slow global rollout of vaccinations could see the number of foreign arrivals falling even more.

Yap Lip Seng, Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Association of Hotels has warned that numbers may take until 2024 to return to anything like pre-pandemic levels.

“We are anticipating the reopening of international borders in stages by 2022, with Malaysia’s vaccination programme now brought forward to achieve herd immunity by the end of this year,” he said.

Yap Lip Seng, Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Association of Hotels

In 2019 tourism accounted for 15.9% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the third largest contributor to the economy. Unlike countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam, there were no plans to reopen to tourism in the near future.

Domestic Tourism Also Hit

Interstate travel in Malaysia is banned in most regions meaning that domestic tourism is also off the cards further impacting on the industry.

“For Malaysia, interstate travel will only be allowed when the number of new cases do not exceed triple digits each day. In fact, it is only safe to travel when it has dropped to double digits.”

Y. S. Chan

Following concerns that people are attempting to travel outside of the current restrictions, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani has emphasised that interstate travel for work, medical and educational purposes are only allowed from Monday to Thursday.

He said that interstate travelling is banned from Friday to Sunday with the exception of emergency cases, deaths and long distance married couples.

Source: The Sun Daily

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Indonesia Looking At Travel Corridor

Bintan, Indonesia credit Anil Nallamotu on Unsplash

The Indonesian Minister for Tourism and Creative Economy, Sandiaga Uno has announced that the Indonesian government is planning travel corridors with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The plans emerge the week after news that the country is planning to open for foreign tourists in Bali, Bintan and Batam from July.

It is likely that visitors will initially be limited to three “green zones” on Bali, Nusa Dua, Sanur and Ubud.

Both Qatar and the UAE have continued flights to Indonesia throughout the pandemic meaning that restarting travel will be far easier than other destinations without current flights.

Measures have already been agreed with the governments of Poland and Ukraine. It’s hoped that other destinations will also agree travel corridors in the coming weeks. Talks are due with Singapore soon and are also expected with China, India, The Netherlands and South Korea.

Source: Vietnam Plus

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