With Thailand allowing vaccinated travellers in without quarantine and Vietnam and the Philippines set to follow, is Asia really reopening for tourism?
In recent years countries across the world have taken a wide variety of approaches in order to combat COVID.
While most countries in Europe shifted multiple times between lockdowns at times of high incidence rates and a relaxation of restrictions and reopening of the tourist sector when the number of COVID cases fell, the bulk of the countries in Asia opted for a strategy of strict border closures.
For many months, it was either downright difficult or even completely impossible to travel to Asia, especially for tourism.
One of the first countries in Asia which reopened for tourism is Thailand.
This month, Thailand finally allowed vaccinated tourists to enter the country without the need to quarantine on arrival.
However, tourists must sign up for a special ‘Test & Go’ entry programme and get tested for COVID on arrival.
Previously, Thai efforts to reboot tourism by allowing travellers to enter if they undergo a mandatory hotel quarantine at a select few tourist destinations such as Phuket failed to bring in large numbers of arrivals.
Another interesting country in Asia which is reopening for tourism is the Philippines, which plans to allow visitors from 157 nations to travel visa-free to the country without the need to quarantine on arrival.
However, tourists do need to be vaccinated and need to show a negative PCR test on arrival.
Vietnam is set to reopen as well this spring according to Asian media.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh announced that the country will make preparations to safely reopen for tourism.
This would reportedly happen at the end of March if possible, but otherwise no later than the beginning of May.
Although exact entry requirements still have to be announced, it is reported that travellers going to Vietnam bust be fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID.
Tourists must also show a negative PCR test on arrival and have a medical insurance covering COVID treatment up to $50,000.
Other Asian countries
However, the case of Indonesia perfectly encapsulates why we shouldn’t cheer too early and immediately start booking flight tickets.
Although headlines such as “Bali reopening for tourism” have appeared all over the internet in recent weeks, there is still a huge caveat.
Despite the fact that international flights will restart to the Indonesian island of Bali and tourists will be welcome again, they still need to go into quarantine for at least five days.
Personally, I don’t count Indonesia as a country which is “reopening for tourism”.
If one thing has been proven in the last year, it is the fact that such “reopening” programmes in which tourists still had to quarantine or were restricted in their movements have not led to significant increase in the number of arrivals.
I would certainly never consider going somewhere on holiday if I’m forced to first spend five days in quarantine in a hotel.
Unless you have family or friends living there, why would anyone go to a place like Bali while there are such restrictions in place?
Especially when there are so many other places in Asia which have reopened without quarantine restrictions!
Although it’s great news that a lot of countries in Asia are slowly reopening for tourism.
Even though Thailand has indeed reopened by now for vaccinated travellers and the reopening plans of countries such as the Philippines look serious, it is still best to remain cautious when it comes to other Asian countries.
Especially the countries in Asia which vaguely announced their plans and only mentioned a possible future reopening date might still end up postponing it all or backtrack entirely on their decision.
Some countries such as Indonesia even have the guts to announce a “reopening” while still forcing arriving tourists to go into mandatory quarantine.
This certainly cannot be called reopening for tourism and probably will not convince many travellers to actually book a ticket.
Sure, the signs are all promising and I’m hopeful that in a few months there will be less travel restrictions in Asia, but I still have to see it fully happening first.
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