Yearning for tourism return

WHILE some South-East Asian countries have gradually reopened their borders to foreign travellers, many feel that the region’s tourism industry has a long way to go before it dispels the gloom brought by the Covid-19 pandemic on “a bumpy road” to recovery.

As part of encouraging moves in the region, Singapore lifted border restrictions for visitors from the Chinese mainland from Friday, as announced late last week by the city state’s authorities.

Visitors must take a Covid-19 test upon arrival but will not need to quarantine if they record a negative result.

Singapore’s move comes at the heels of Thailand welcoming the first batch of Chinese tourists under a special tourist visa programme in late October.

They were the first foreign arrivals in the tourism-reliant country in seven months.

The visa programme was devised by the Thai authorities to restore, incrementally, a sector that by some estimates accounts for over 10% of the country’s GDP, with almost 40 million visitors last year.

In South-East Asia, Thailand is far from alone in having its tourism industry ravaged by the pandemic.

In Indonesia, the number of foreign visitors plunged by over 70% from January to September compared to the same period last year.

Cambodia also saw a huge slump in the number of foreign tourists during the first half of this year.

The country welcomed just 1.18 million visitors for the six months, down 64% from the same period last year, Xinhua reported.

A strategy of gradual reopenings to foreign visitors is a good start for countries in South-East Asia, and China stands out as a target source market for tourists with its record on coronavirus control, said Xu Liping, director of South-East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

More importantly, Xu said the relaxations in travel restrictions for Chinese visitors represent a “gesture of regional cooperation with Asean countries amid the threat from Covid-19”.

Thailand was one of the top overseas destinations for Chinese tourists last year, accounting for by far the largest number of visitors by nationality.

Some 11 million Chinese visitors put about US$17bil (RM70.18bil) into the economy.

In a bid to lift its tourism industry out of the doldrums, Thailand plans further moves to open up.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the first phase of reopening will be limited to 1,200 people, a far cry from a monthly figure of around 3 million before the pandemic. — China Daily/Asian News Network

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tourist , tourism , covid-19


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