Thailand has grabbed headlines for much of 2021 in South East Asia, but what’s it been like to live and work in a country that appeared COVID-safe, and then was hit very hard by the Delta variant? In the final part of our ‘2021: The Year So Far in ASEAN’ series, Gary and Hannah chat with Vincent Vichit-Vadakan, a freelance writer and editor based in Bangkok. Vincent is also the host of tourism-related seminars for Destination Mekong and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. We talk about the early year projections for a partial travel recovery, and the COVID concerns that emerged around the time of the Songkran festival. We discuss in depth the protracted development and implementation of the Phuket Sandbox, and the lacklustre results so far. And, what has been the knock-on impact for domestic travel? Plus we look ahead to the still-unconfirmed next phase of Thailand’s reopening, which includes the capital, Bangkok – one of the world’s most visited cities.
Will history record that August 2021 was the month when travel returned to government agendas? It was certainly an eventful month in South East Asia as governments recognised that COVID-19 will be endemic, and that they must plan accordingly. Accelerating vaccination rollouts remains a priority, and a big challenge - especially for countries with large populations, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. This week, Gary and Hannah review the 6 top talking points in travel and tourism during August, and bring each one right up to date. Malaysia saw a government fall and a new Prime Minister installed who announced a pilot reopening for vaccinated domestic travellers in Langkawi. Thailand turned its inbound attentions to Bangkok and updated its Phuket Sandbox statistics. Singapore shifted its focus to Vaccinated Travel Lanes, but is fighting more local infections. In the Philippines, a moratorium on casino tourism investment in Boracay was removed, the flag carrier entered Chapter 11 and confusion surrounds the issuance of digital vaccine certificates. And so to beautiful Bali, where more mixed messaging emerged about its 'will it, won't it' reopening plan.
After successfully managing the pandemic in 2020, the Delta variant has hit Cambodia harder than expected this year. That said, one of the region's most concerted vaccination programmes offers hope for rebuilding both tourism and the economy. In the penultimate edition of our 10-part '2020: The Year So Far in ASEAN' series, Gary and Hannah welcome Jacques Guichandut, Managing Director of All Dreams Cambodia, which is a B2B tour operator based in Phnom Penh. We learn how the removal of international tourism has impacted local travel businesses, and how Jacques pivoted to meet shifting leisure and team-building travel expectations in the domestic market. We assess Cambodia's reopening timeframe, and discuss the opportunities of positioning the nation as a single destination, rather than part of a South East Asia trip itinerary. Plus, what is it like to visit the ancient temple ruins of Angkor Wat with almost no tourists?
Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago, and counts the planet's fourth largest population. It is also South East Asia's largest country and its biggest economy. The size, scale and diversity of the nation have been decisive factors for its long struggle to contain COVID-19, and the immense logistical challenges of inoculating its people. That said, significant progress is being made, and although the reopening of Bali to international travellers has faded from view for now, a cautious optimism exists for the future. So in Part 8 of our 2021: The Year So Far In… series, Gary and Hannah head to Indonesia to chat with Bali-based Julia Winterflood, who is Head Writer of The Bali Beat and a journalist for Travel Weekly Asia. Julia discusses new trends in domestic tourism that have emerged, and the fascinating concept of "tourist villages". We also update the latest vaccination figures nationwide and in Bali itself, analyse the structural impact on Indonesia's travel economy and learn the attitudes among young people about what tourism means to them. Finally, we address the much-discussed concept of "mass tourism" vs "quality tourism".
From 4.3 billion down to 0 - and an array of figures in between. On this special extra edition in the "2021: The Year So Far in ASEAN" series, Gary and Hannah crunch the year’s distressing travel numbers. We created a list of 2021 statistics that, taken together, sum up what has been another very difficult year so far in South East Asia. En route, we assess the current vaccine rollout figures, the staggering drop in ASEAN’s air travel capacity, and chart the slide in Thailand’s visitor arrivals projections. Plus, what links ‘28,955’ with 2021’s biggest travel story, and why does ‘2’ still define the region’s top travel story in 2020? Which country is implementing a 28-day quarantine, and which one registered 6% hotel occupancy in June? And, which high-profile airport saw its first half-year passenger movements slump from 12.03 million in 2020 to 951,000 in 2021? Finally, when it comes to 0, which nations in ASEAN and Asia Pacific are still following a Zero Covid strategy? Sadly, the numbers tell some salutary stories about the current state of travel and tourism in South East Asia.
The Philippines is South East Asia's second largest nation with a population of more than 110 million. While it has struggled to contain COVID-19 from the outset, travel sentiment remains strong. This week, in Part 4 our “2021: The Year So Far” series, Gary and Hannah chat with Manila-based Feliz Axalan, General Manager at Tradewings Tours & Travel. Feliz joins us from Switzerland, having spent 3 months travelling in Europe, including Spain, Greece and Switzerland. She compares the travel summer in Europe with the current situations in the Philippines and elsewhere in South East Asia. We also discuss a complex year for domestic travel restrictions, the current vaccination situation in the Philippines and the prospects for reopening to inbound travel. At the same time, Filipinos are eager to board outbound flights once quarantine restrictions are eased. Feliz discusses the destinations that are hot tickets for customers intending to book ahead, and the new tech systems that travel sector players are putting in place to meet an expected surge in demand.
The spectacular country of Laos has been overshadowed as more prominent destinations in South East Asia attempt to reopen for tourism. Laos, though, has tentatively set in motion its own reopening plan. So, this week, Gary and Hannah tackle developments in the year so far in Laos with Jason Rolan, who is Senior Partner of Vientiane-based RDK Group. Jason was last on the show in November 2020, when Laos was COVID-safe. Since then, infection waves have disrupted the nation's Zero Covid strategy, and brought movement restrictions. That said, Laos remains a case study of successful containment in ASEAN. With international borders still closed, Jason describes some new trends in domestic tourism over recent months, including self-drive trips and Insta-travel. We also assess how the economic slowdown is hampering travel activity. And, of course, we delve into transport infrastructure projects, including the Vientiane-Vang Vieng expressway, plus the China-Laos high-speed railway. This inaugural part of China's ambitious pan-ASEAN railway is slated to become operational on 2 December, Laos National Day. Will it start on time, and what benefits could the new train line deliver for inbound travel from China? And how could could super-fast rail travel transform domestic vacations in Laos?
July 2021 saw the Delta variant spread at an accelerated speed through the region. It now dominates every aspect of economics, social and health policy and daily discourse. On the monthly review show, Gary and Hannah unravel this month's worrying statistics from across South East Asia, plus China, Japan and South Korea. We also analyse what the worsening COVID-19 situation combined with variable speeds of vaccine rollout will mean for proposed tourism reopenings in Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. And what about Singapore, where the government has signalled that quarantine-free travel could commence for vaccinated travellers from September... Where will Singaporeans be able to go, and who will be able to visit the city state? Finally, we look at how the pandemic is dislocating entire parts of the travel industry chain, with deepening impacts for other sectors of the economy, ranging from catering to coffee to meat and livestock.