The private sector in ASEAN's tourism industry needs to step up to build back intra-region travel, which continues to be hampered by patchwork rules and individual regulations among member countries.
We run the businesses, we own the businesses, so we have to come together.
Rather than wait for governments to collaborate on health and safety protocols and travel requirements, private sector players across the region should lead the charge, said industry members at the recent Halal in Travel Global Summit.
Samson Tan, CEO of GTMC Travel, believes the private sector should establish an “emerging stronger together” task force to manage regional travel.
“We run the businesses, we own the businesses, so we have to come together. If we get four or five [ASEAN member nations] on board [the task force], the rest will follow. We should make the media noise, then go to our governments. Otherwise we will never get started — we will be waiting forever.”
Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Mohamed Ismail Hussain, believes there is sufficient expertise among private sector stakeholders to produce a regional travel SOP.
“If the ASEAN Travel Association (ASEANTA) could propose to the ASEAN secretariat to let it take over the formation of a task force to compile the whole SOP, that would be a good start. If ASEANTA comes together as a whole, governments cannot ignore it,” he said.
Why don’t we in the ASEAN region encourage our own governments to use a global application, like IATA Travel Pass?
Areas that common standards are needed for intra-ASEAN travel include digital travel passports, tour operation guidelines, hotel and restaurant cleanliness and health measures, quarantine periods, and compulsory travel insurance, said Pauline Suharno, president of the Indonesian Travel Agents Association (ASTINDO).
“One thing that always gives our travel consultants a headache is that for international travel, different countries — and even different airlines — have their own criteria for negative PCR test results. Indonesia only allows results from certain clinics accompanied by a QR code; Cambodia requires the clinic company stamp and original signature; while Singapore Airlines in Indonesia only accepts results from designated branches of certain clinics,” she remarked.
As well, each ASEAN country has developed its own digital travel passport application, resulting in travellers needing to navigate a handful of different apps, Suharno explained.
“Why don’t we in the ASEAN region encourage our own governments to use a global application, like IATA Travel Pass? If we want to make ASEAN a single safe destination, then travellers won’t need to download so many applications.”
Eugene Yap, chairperson and president of the Hotel & Restaurant Association of the Philippines, agreed that the sector needs ASEAN-wide policies. “We are now beginning to accept the principle of learning to live with the Covid-19 pandemic, so we really need the health protocols observed in one country to be observed by other countries. There will be less risk for us to travel.”