Southeast Asia aims to gain a grip on tourism once again

Published on : Tuesday, November 10, 2020

While some Southeast Asian countries are gradually opening their borders for foreign travelers, many are also of the opinion that the region’s tourism industry needs to travel a long way before it drives out the gloom brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and witnesses a full-fledged recovery.

As stimulating moves for the region, Singapore is lifting border restrictions for visitors from the Chinese mainland, announced by the city state’s authorities last week. Visitors need to undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival without having to quarantine if they record a negative result.

Singapore’s move comes on the heels of Thailand welcoming its first batch of Chinese tourists under a special tourist visa program in late October. These tourists comprised the first foreign arrivals in the tourism-reliant country in seven months.

The visa program was planned by the Thai authorities for restoring incrementally a sector accounting to more than 10 percent of the country’s GDP, with almost 40 million visitors in 2019.

In Southeast Asia, Thailand is among other nations where the tourism industry has been ravaged by the pandemic.

In Indonesia, the number of foreign visitors declined more than 70 percent from January to September compared to the same period last year.

Cambodia also witnessed a huge drop in the number of foreign tourists during the first half of this year. The country saw just 1.18 million visitors for the last six months, going down 64 percent from the same period last year.

Gradual reopening for foreign visitors is a good start for countries in Southeast Asia, with China standing out as a target source market for tourists with its sound corona virus control, according to Xu Liping, the director of Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Xu said that the relaxations in travel restrictions for Chinese visitors symbolize a “gesture of regional cooperation with Asean countries amid the threat from COVID-19”.

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