After an economically disastrous two years since the pandemic began, Southeast Asia is increasingly getting ready for business as usual.
Southeast Asian countries with popular destinations are rolling back Covid-19 restrictions in order to resuscitate their respective tourism industries. Tourist hotspots like Bali, Hanoi, Bangkok, and Phnom Penh are reopening completely just in time for the spring and summer holidays.
Thailand announced last week that starting from April 1, entry rules will be much more relaxed for vaccinated visitors. Tourists will no longer be required to hold a Covid-free certificate issued within 72 hours of boarding a flight, but they will have to undergo an RT-PCR test on arrival and a self-administered antigen test on day five of their trip.
Vietnam has also waived quarantine rules for all international travellers after two years of stringent restrictions, and are now building on efforts to bring in more group tours. And according to the Khmer Times, Cambodia has decided to drop all testing requirements before and upon arrival.
As for the Philippines, they will now allow for quarantine-free travel for all fully vaccinated travellers from April 1, 2022, and Indonesia has also taken away quarantine requirements for all overseas arrivals as of March 21, 2022.
This is a particularly significant move, as Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, and Bali has long been one of the region’s most popular international destinations. As Indonesia has moved past the peak of its Omicron wave, the government has expanded its quarantine-free travel protocol to the rest of the sprawling archipelago, following a successful two-week trial of the programme in Bali, Batam, and Bintan islands, where infections have remained low. Arriving visitors are still required to take the Covid-19 test.
Tourism is only just starting to rebuild in Indonesia. About 143,700 foreign tourists visited in January 2022. That’s up 13.6% from a year earlier, but the number was still far below pre-pandemic levels, which typically saw international arrivals above 1 million each month.
Also going into effect as of April 21, the island of Bali expanded its visa-on-arrival programme to include 42 countries. (ASEAN nationals remain exempt from visa requirements.)
Getting tourism numbers back is a key plan for Southeast Asian governments across the board, seeing as tourism accounted for 12.1% of Southeast Asia’s economic output, that also saw 42 million employed workers in 2019, according to the Asian Development Bank.
After an economically disastrous two years since the pandemic began, it’s safe to say Southeast Asia is ready for business to resume as usual.