Government AffairsThe travel industry ushers in the Year of the Tiger on a fiercer, more positive note as countries step up their reopening plans.

Fierce signs of Asia's reopening plans roaring back to life 🐯

Many countries kicked off 2022 with wilder plans to reopen international travel.
Many countries kicked off 2022 with wilder plans to reopen international travel. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jan Rozehnal

Move over Rat and Ox. When it comes to travel reopening, the Year of the Tiger appears to usher a more auspicious note for Asia than the previous two animals in the Chinese zodiac.

When compared with the bolder approach in the US and Europe, which is largely open to quarantine-free travel for those who are vaccinated, some may call these reopening signs in Asia a whimper.

But if recent moves are anything to go by, governments in Asia are increasingly taking firmer and stronger steps to reopen travel and tourism.

Signs are clear that reopening plans will get onto the accelerated track in 2022. Here's a look at some of the key developments in Asia.

Indonesia's reopening begins with Bali, Bintan and Batam

Following a prolonged closure, Bali is finally reopening its doors to all international travellers.

Although Bali had earlier reopened to selected markets including China, Japan and New Zealand since mid-October 2021, no direct international flights had called on the destination.

The island finally welcomed its first international tourist flight from Tokyo by Garuda Indonesia on 3 February, while Singapore Airlines had earlier announced that it would resume flights to Bali from 16 February.

However, vaccinated travellers to the island must still quarantine between five and seven days at hotels.

In January, the Indonesian government had also announced plans to reopen Batam and Bintan to leisure travellers from Singapore.

Coron, a small island off Palawan in the Philippines
Coron, a small island off Palawan in the Philippines Photo Credit: Getty Images/Sean3810

Philippines reopens to international tourism after two years

After being closed to international tourists for nearly two years, the Philippines will launch quarantine-free travel from 10 February.

The February reopening date follows a postponed December 2021 reopening derailed by the omicron variant.

Travellers will be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours of their departure as well as self-monitor for symptoms for seven days after arrival.

Thailand resumes Test & Go programme

After pausing its quarantine-free programme earlier, Thailand has reinstated the popular Test & Go scheme from 1 February. Under this revised programme, vaccinated travellers from any market are now welcomed to the country but they will have to undergo two PCR tests—upon arrival and on day five of their stay at a participating hotel. If they test negative, visitors can travel around the country without restrictions.

Singapore's commitment to staying open

That major events like Singapore Airshow and Formula 1 Grand Prix are making a comeback on the events calendar this year speaks volume about the country's commitment to pursue a reopening track.

Leveraging its strong diplomatic ties around the world, the Singapore government has also reinstated the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme allowing fully vaccinated visitors from select countries to enter and explore the country after a PCR test upon arrival.

Hanoi will be hosting the 31st Southeast Asia Games in May 2022.
Hanoi will be hosting the 31st Southeast Asia Games in May 2022. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Nguyenhieu2206

Vietnam's full reopening comes into radar

Vietnam has launched a three-phase plan to allow fully vaccinated foreign tourists into the country, starting with specific destinations such as Phu Quoc, Da Nang, Hoi An and Nha Trang since November 2021.

With the roll-out of the second phase, which begun in January 2022, international flights have been approved between Vietnam and nine destinations including San Francisco or Los Angeles, Singapore, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Beijing or Guangzhou, Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei.

A full reopening expected sometime in June or July 2022, although Vietnam's Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung has also proposed a total reopening of the country to international tourism from 31 March.

Come May, Vietnam is also scheduled to host the 31st Southeast Asia Games from May 12-25 in Hanoi.

Cambodia: 'easiest to travel to' in Southeast Asia

Currently touted to be the most open to tourism and easiest to travel to among ASEAN nations, Cambodia has reopened fully to international vaccinated travellers without quarantine requirements since November.

Vaccinated travellers need only have a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to departure to Cambodia, a negative RTK test upon arrival and health insurance covering US$50,000.

The coastal city of Sihanoukville also recently hosted the ASEAN Tourism Forum in January 2022.

Malaysia: Langkawi travel bubble and beyond

Malaysia is open to international travellers through the Langkawi International Travel Bubble. Under this scheme, visitors can enter Langkawi for a minimum stay of three days sans quarantine. After seven days in Langkawi and a second PCR test, travellers are then free to explore the rest of Malaysia.

Light displays in Dontonbori, Osaka
Light displays in Dontonbori, Osaka Photo Credit: Getty Images/f11photo

Japan shortens quarantine period for foreign arrivals

Due to the Omicron variant, Japan has extended the ban that bars foreign visitors from entering until the end of February. Meanwhile, the country has reduced its on-arrival quarantine period twice in two weeks—from 14 days to 10 days and now to seven days.

New Zealand unveils plan to reopen to world

In what's seen as a change from its previous ardent Covid zero stance, New Zealand has announced it will begin reopening to the world in stages starting 27 February.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined a five-phase plan that will allow fully vaccinated travellers into the country from 13 March, although they will still have to self-isolate for 10 days but can do so at home.

By July, fully jabbed visitors from Australia or visa waiver countries—including the UK, the US, and many European nations—will be able to enter New Zealand and self-isolate on arrival.

Australia reopens to the world again

Like New Zealand, Australia has maintained stricter border measures than most countries in the world. But it's 'Fortress Australia' no longer as Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just announced that the country will reopen to vaccinated tourists and other visa holders from 21 February.

Prior to its reopening announcement, vaccinated travellers from selected countries such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea were welcomed to arrive quarantine-free. Tourism Australia has launched a new campaign to entice vaccinated Singaporeans to visit Australia.

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