Government AffairsMeasures such as quarantines and constant testing have outlived their usefulness, say travel industry leaders.

Hey, Asia governments, it's time to be brave

Calls from travel industry to reopen without restrictions are growing louder every day.
Calls from travel industry to reopen without restrictions are growing louder every day. Photo Credit: Getty Images/studio-fi

Day by day the calls to reopen international travel without cumbersome restrictions are growing louder in Asia. 

Unlike Europe's more liberal reopening policies, where many countries have dropped almost all pandemic restrictions, including lifting Covid testing requirements for some, most governments in Asia continue to impose strict entry rules on international arrivals into their borders.  

However, the recent weeks have saw a quick succession of announcements from leading travel industry leaders beseeching Asia's governments to reopen the country with simpler or no rules.

"Politicians have to be brave," AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes told the BBC, speaking from the recent Singapore Airshow, one of the most prominent events to return to the city's live events calendar this year and reflects the country's hastening steps to reopen travel.

"To me, opening our borders means no quarantine, no form-filling, no constant testing," Fernandes was quoted as saying. "Now we have to protect people's livelihoods and economies."

Similarly, Minor Hotels' founder and chairman Bill Heinecke, in an open letter to Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, has urged the government to simplify entry requirements for tourists.

Although the quarantine-free Test & Go programme, which resumed on 1 February, the additional requirements of having to undergo a PCR test for Covid upon entry and once again on the fifth day of stay at a qualified hotel have repeatedly been singled out by industry members as a major dampener on inbound demand and the recovery of tourism. 

"I wish to reiterate again that the existing Thailand Pass pre-approval system has outlived its usefulness and is serving a hindrance to travel rather than a public health safeguard. Pre-departure proof of vaccination and RT-PCR testing, as required by most nations and airlines, are already sufficient and more than enough in today's world," wrote Heinecke.

The Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Tourism Authority of Thailand have indicated that changes could soon be expected, as the tourism authorities have proposed to replace the fifth-day PCR test with a rapid antigen test.

Meanwhile, pressure is also mounting on the Japanese authorities to review the country's Covid border policies. Although the country recently relaxed its entry rules to include business travellers and foreign students, the business community to "quickly adopt a science-based entry policy.

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