International travel is a vital part of the economy of Thailand; hence it’s one of the primary concerns post-COVID19. That said, I’m sure you are probably wondering, when will international travel return in Thailand? As the COVID-19 vaccine promises a future without any travel regulations, the APA (Asian Pacific Airlines) warns that the distribution of this drug might be delayed. That’s all thanks to the inequality of immunisation especially in developing countries.

Research predicts that the goal to vaccinate 60% of the Asia-Pacific population will not be met by end of the 2021. Most countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea among others are expected to complete the vaccination of  60% of their population by 2022.

What’s even worse is that there are countries like Philippines, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia that will potentially achieve 60% vaccination in 2023 to 2025. All in all, there is a ray of hope for countries where the backbone of their economy is tourism.

Source: The Economical Intelligence Unit AAPA

The journey to recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic created a strain in the tourism sector because of the travel ban. Most countries are barely getting on their feet trying to implement policies that will bring back international travel. Recently, the ASEANTA has called a meeting to discuss the best course of action to restart the travel and tourism industry by Q2 this year. That could save the economy from collapsing due to the harsh conditions of the pandemic.

The meeting was held virtually and hosted by Cambodia, discussing recommendations, including the support from the respective governments to ensure the industry’s survival. Some of the support schemes included tax reliefs, incentives, and guaranteed loans for significant tourism sector players.

Most of the industry companies are in huge debts and are late on their repayment process due to the dwindling market. However, if the governments could potentially keep them afloat to weather the storm, these companies will have a strong comeback. Without a doubt, once the vaccine roll-out starts, most countries will be safe to travel.

More importantly, travel documents mobilisation could mean that most travellers will have an easy time at the airport since all their information will be accessible on their smartphones. That includes health status, possibly vaccination, and tickets.

Pulling resources together

The government roll-out for the COVID-19 vaccine is bound to delay, further impacting the tourism sector.  But all hope is not lost. The stakeholders in the tourism industry in Phuket are taking matters into their own hands. The PTA (Phuket Tourist Association) is pulling their resources together to vaccinate around 70% of their population, especially citizens above 18 years old.

They are not waiting for the government roll-out.  The PTA hopes that it would be safe for them to open their borders for foreign tourists once they achieve the populous general vaccination. With this plan, of course, approval by the government is a must; the country could potentially do away with the 14-day quarantine for foreign travellers. That will allow most visitors from Europe and the US to spend their winters on the Island of Phuket.

Most Asian countries that depend on tourism could borrow a leaf from what the Phuket tourism stakeholders are trying to do. Our local governments are bound by bureaucratic regulations that could potentially delay the vaccine’s roll-out and lead to severe consequences to the tourism sector. But by joining forces, the travel and tourism industry could be up on its way to recovery.

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