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Covid Slowed Tourism to Southeast Asia. But as Thailand, Malaysia Ease Curbs, Party is Picking Up

Artists and elephants perform in Thailand. (Image: Reuters)

Artists and elephants perform in Thailand. (Image: Reuters)

While it has faced a lag, travel and tourism in Southeast Asia seems to be picking up as the industry targets more revellers to bridge the Covid-19 gap

The tourism business in Thailand is looking up, as some entry restrictions are due to be lifted from today. On April 25, the Thai government had said that 713,183 international visitors had arrived in the country this year, with more than half of them being tourists, a report by Thaiger said.

While it has faced a lag, travel and tourism in Southeast Asia seems to be picking up as the industry targets more revellers to bridge the Covid-19 gap.

Thailand’s Tourism Authority is now apparently hoping to attract at least 1 million tourists per month by the end of 2022, when the next high season begins. One million tourists every month would be equivalent to around 30% of pre-Covid monthly arrivals. Various countries in these regions are travel hotspots for Indians, but Covid-19 had virtually put a stop to tourism from here. As various nations open up, looking at the travel pick-up and measures at other places:

Malaysia Eases Test Curbs for Indians

Following Singapore, Malaysia is attempting to attract Indian tourists. Prior to the arrival of the Covid, Indians were the fourth most common visitors to Malaysia. More over a third of them were from India’s south, a report by the Times of India said.

In three months, the number of flights between India and Malaysia is projected to return to pre-Covid levels.
K Saravanan, Malaysia’s consul general for south India, told reporters at a press conference in Chennai on Friday that the RT-PCR test will no longer be required for fully vaccinated Indian travellers travelling to Malaysia from May 1, 2022.

“Every day, we receive 800-1000 applications for e-visas. “It’s expected to rise,” he said.

7.6 lakh Indian tourists visited Malaysia in 2019, according to Manoharan Periasamy, senior director, international promotion division, Asia/Africa, Tourism Malaysia, but no leisure travellers have visited since the outbreak of Covid-19, the report said.

“At least by the end of 2022, we can attract 25-30 percent of pre-pandemic tourists totalling approximately one lakh travellers from India,” he added, noting that the queries from India were encouraging after Malaysia relaxed sanctions on its borders on April 1. Furthermore, he was quoted as saying in the report that as the number of flights increases, airfares would decrease.

Flights to Singapore Rise After Lifting Restrictions

According to travel data business ForwardKeys, flight reservations to Singapore increased to 68 percent of pre-virus levels in the week of March 23, when the government said it was lifting most of the pandemic-related restrictions, a report by the Bloomberg Quint said. This is up from the previous week’s figure of 55%.

After PCR tests were replaced with supervised self-swabs on Feb. 22 and more countries were added to so-called vaccinated travel lanes that allowed quarantine-free entry for the inoculated, Singapore’s Changi Airport handled 1.14 million passengers in March, the first time the figure climbed above 1 million since the start of the pandemic, the report said.

Further, according to figures provided by BloombergNEF, there will be 307 flights a week between Malaysia and Singapore by the end of May, up from 152 at the start of the year. Flights from Indonesia to the island-state will increase from 55 to 222, while flights from India will increase from 100 to 190 in early 2022, it said.

Indonesia Opens Up Too

With the virus’s spread slowing, Indonesia reopened its visa-on-arrival programme for visitors from 23 countries, including Australia, the United States, Japan, and Germany, in March. On April 5, Indonesia granted visa-on-arrival to travellers from 43 nations, a report by Nikkei Asia said. Indonesia has set a target of recruiting 1.8 million to 3.6 million foreign tourists this year.

“Tourism is estimated to contribute $470 million to $1.7 billion to foreign reserves this year,” tourism minister Sandiaga Uno was quoted as saying in the report.

The government anticipates 1.4 million tourists from Australia, with the majority of them heading to Bali. Indonesia welcomed 1.56 million foreign tourists in 2021, down from 4.02 million in 2020, the first year of COVID.

Foreign visitors will need to download PeduliLindungi, a tracking app, before arriving in Indonesia so that authorities can keep an eye on the infection. Anyone who does not cover up in public spaces in Bali will be fined 100,000 rupiah. If venue owners fail to enforce mask wearing, they will be fined one million rupiah, the report said.

Foreign tourists will also be required to provide a negative PCR result from a test done prior to departure while entering the nation. Travelers who have not been vaccinated must stay in quarantine for five days and pass two PCR tests.

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