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Southeast Asia Reopens to Tourism

    Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and now Myanmar: Southeast Asia has proclaimed that it will begin welcoming tourists again in April 2022. 

    The Asian Development Bank declared in a report that the pandemic pushed 4.7 million Southeast Asians into extreme poverty in 2021. This was given by the fact that a large number of people became unemployed and a massive job scarcity has hit these countries as a result of the pandemic.

    For reviving the economy, the ministries of tourism of these important countries of the ASEAN region, have decided to handle the pandemic carefully, but at the same time, they are now determined in opening the border and welcome travelers with eased restrictions.

    Tourism constitutes more than 10% of GDP in countries like Thailand and Cambodia, but it seems that after the pandemic, also the war in Ukraine will affect this sector as many people have decided not to travel for the next months, as this conflict has influenced their mood and their choices. 

    Moreover, before the pandemic, Russian tourists were one of the largest sources of revenue for Thailand’s tourism industry. Russian airlines have canceled almost all their international flights and the crashing ruble also makes international travel an unreachable prospect for Russians. Finally, without access to credit cards, Russian tourists have to rely on cash to pay for things overseas—and sanctions on Russian banks mean they can’t withdraw more money once they get to their travel destination.

    In recent days, Vietnam has allowed all international travelers to enter the country without needing to quarantine, but still, a negative test will be required before departure to enter the country. Before the pandemic, the tourism sector contributed to Vietnam’s wealth with about 32 billion dollars a year. The daily cases of Coronavirus are still high, but thanks to the high vaccination rate – 98 percent – hospitalizations and mortality remain “under control,” local authorities say.

    Malaysia has also announced that it would offer quarantine-free entry to fully-vaccinated travelers from April 1. Whereas Cambodia is the country that so far has the best-installed measures for preventing the creation of masses in the most famous attractions of the country. So few tourists had only been seen in the early 1990s after the end of the civil conflict. Cambodia was recently ranked second behind Taiwan in the Nikkei Covid-19 Recovery Index for its excellent handling of the pandemic.

    Other countries in Southeast Asia like Thailand have relaunched their quarantine-free travel plan in early February after a break caused by the emergence of the Omicron COVID variant. The country announced Friday that travelers would no longer be required to hold swab documentation certifying they are COVID-free. The government has predicted the arrival of only 5 million foreign visitors this year, a substantial drop from 40 million in 2019.

    A big issue that will remain for the next months is that China is not considering allowing Chinese people to travel. This represents a big concern for the Southeast Asian economies because China – before the pandemic – was the largest source of tourists, especially Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Tourists from China are improbable to travel abroad so long as Beijing requires them to isolate for two weeks after their return, as per the Chinese government’s current policy. 

    According to The Times by Hopper, airfares from the US to Southeast Asia in February were about 30% higher than before the pandemic, due to fewer flights to the region. Travelers will have to pay $1,100 USD for a round-trip ticket. With the opening of the borders and the easing of the restrictions, this should not be a problem anymore and these countries should come back on track for becoming flourishing economies and for developing fast.

    Article by: Alessia Donzello