Several popular destinations remain off limits to tourists

Karla Cripps | 27th April 2022

During the recent Easter holiday, social media feeds were flooded with photographs of cheerful vacationers, many of whom were taking their first international excursions since the outbreak began.

In Switzerland, you can go skiing. Thailand beach vacations That long-awaited trip to Disney World with the family.

In fact, so many people are taking the road this summer that experts are expecting a summer of travel turmoil as the sector tries to cope with diminished capacity and workforces.

‘A highly uneven recovery’

A quick glance at the UNWTO’s Destination Tracker reveals that the vast majority of places reliant on tourism dollars have lifted quarantine restrictions and are now welcoming visitors — though some still have conditions like mandatory Covid-19 tests on arrival, tests before flying, mandatory quarantines if tests are positive, and so on.

While the majority of the world’s most prominent tourist sites have reopened, a few tourism hotspots remain closed to leisure travelers, regardless of their readiness to test, vaccinate, and quarantine.

And the majority of them are in Asia-Pacific.

“We are beginning to see the early signs of a recovery, with markets like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, and Cambodia loosening their restrictions and kicking off a recovery,” says Liz Ortiguera, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), which has 650 members including government tourism bodies, travel agencies, and airports.

“However, from an international capacity standpoint, a number of significant markets in the region remain effectively closed. The recovery in the region as a whole is quite unequal.”

Japan eases entry restrictions — but tourists still left out

Tourists eager to visit Tokyo’s fish markets may have to wait a little longer for their sushi fix.

Japan continues to loosen its severe admission restrictions; the daily quota for new arrivals has been raised to 10,000 people as of April 10, 2022, however this does not include leisure visitors.

Citizens, residents, researchers, students, residents’ family members, and business travelers with prior consent are allowed to access for the time being. Depending on where they are coming from, some may be subjected to quarantine.

So, when will Japan be open to tourists again? The issue of time was raised during Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s April 8 press conference, but no concrete plan was presented.

“We’ll have to keep making appropriate decisions in each country based on the infection status and worldwide movements,” he said. “It has yet to be determined.”

China battles to contain outbreaks

Much has been stated about how the global tourist economy will not completely recover until Chinese citizens can go overseas again.

According to the China Tourism Academy, the number of outbound travelers from China reached 155 million in 2019, making it the world’s largest outbound travel market.

For the time being, Chinese people are severely discouraged from traveling abroad, and those who do risk being quarantined for at least two weeks, if not longer.

But what about foreign visitors who are willing to spend time in quarantine in exchange for a vacation?

Those who have a lifelong desire of walking along the Great Wall will have to wait. At this moment, foreign nationals are not permitted to enter for the purpose of leisure tourism.

In terms of a schedule for reopening, the head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated in October 2021 that China may open its borders after vaccinating over 85 percent of its population “by early 2022.”

Despite the fact that the vaccine objective was met, the country remains dedicated to its zero-Covid approach as it battles outbreaks in various cities, making it exceedingly unlikely that international tourists would be welcomed back anytime soon.

Macao not ready to bet on reopening, HK eases the door open a crack

Travelers who wish to gamble and eat Macanese cuisine in Asia’s most famous gaming resort will be disappointed. There have been no indications that Macao will open its doors to the rest of the globe anytime soon.

Tourists, with the exception of those from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, are still forbidden from entering the special administrative zone. Even those who are allowed to enter must undergo a two-week quarantine period, with the exception of individuals arriving from specific Chinese cities.

Business visitors and students from outside mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong will be allowed to enter in the near future, according to a government news release issued in mid-April. However, there have been little specifics provided.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong officials have announced that non-residents would be allowed to enter the city for the first time in nearly two years beginning May 1. Though tourists will be able to visit, they will be subjected to a seven-day quarantine, and flight disruptions are a common occurrence.

No firm reopening date from Taiwan

Over the previous two months, Taiwan, one of Asia’s most popular culinary destinations, has relaxed its travel restrictions.

Since March 7, foreign business travelers have been permitted to visit the island. Foreign relatives and Taiwan residents with a valid alien resident certificate can apply to visit starting April 12.

Those with a work/study visa, those coming for investment or business, and travellers entering on humanitarian reasons are now all welcome.

They’ll also be quarantined for 10 days in a hotel or at home.

However, leisure travelers are still unable to visit.

As other countries reopen their borders, Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare, Chen Shih-chung, stated in February that the island needed to explore reducing travel restrictions in order to avoid falling behind in terms of economic development.

Without providing a specific reopening date, Chen also stated that if the virus’s spread is kept under control, present limitations will be eased and non-business travelers will be permitted admission.

Several Pacific islands remain off limits

According to a research released last week by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) titled “Asia’s Travel-Ready Index 2022,” island nations such as Vanuatu and Fiji are among the most reliant on tourism in the area.

Fiji reopened in late 2021, with tourism accounting for 40% of the economy. It ranks first in the EIU’s travel-readiness index, which considers three aspects that may influence international tourists’ feelings: vaccination coverage at the destination, ease of transit to the destination, and quarantine requirements when they return home.

Tahiti, Palau, and the Cook Islands are among the Pacific island locations that have reopened to tourists.

However, a number of islands in the region, including Samoa, Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Tonga, and the Solomon Islands, remain prohibited to tourists.

According to PATA CEO Ortiguera, each destination’s preparation level and time to link with the outside world must be judged as they manage the difficult balancing of lives vs livelihoods.

“And, to take an example from a recent WHO briefing,” she writes, “each country must manage its own unique road down the mountain from this pandemic impact.”

“As an example, Singapore actively managed down Covid transmissions and is now negotiating a successful exit to reopen the market.” I’m confident that these measures have laid a strong foundation for a sustained recovery.”

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