Southeast Asia, home to some of the most tourism-reliant countries in the world, is reeling from the coronavirus-induced global lockdowns — and many of the region’s travel industries are struggling to survive.
Even though other regions like Europe have seen travel-related activities lifted, Southeast Asia’s borders, have remained largely closed.
Although the pandemic remains largely under control in most parts of Southeast Asia, the unpredictability of infections have largely discouraged authorities from opening up their borders more quickly.
A pilot scheme in Thailand was initially set to grant special tourist visas for long-stay travelers, which would have allowed healthy international tourists to go anywhere within the country after serving a mandatory 14-day quarantine. But those plans were temporarily scuttled after a new case was reported, delaying plans for reopening.
“Travelers can come to Thailand, and they can choose Bangkok or Phuket for their state quarantines,” Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor for marketing communications at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said in an interview.
But, majority of the potential tourists who would visit Thailand are showing skepticism in remaining in quarantine for two weeks. Similarly, tourists intending to visit the Philippines are scared as the country is yet to open its borders.
Case of the Philippines
Economists have slashed their 2020 outlook for the Philippines by more than any other Southeast Asian nation as it struggles with one of the region’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
The forecast for the country’s gross domestic product dropped from a 6.1% expansion at the beginning of the year to an 8.9% contraction, a swing of 15 percentage points, according to the median of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Thailand is second-worst, at 10.1 percentage points, followed by Malaysia’s 9.8 percentage points.
The Philippines central bank unexpectedly cut policy rates in November to help accelerate the economy’s disappointing recovery amid weak consumption and fiscal spending and as it grapples with the impact of back-to-back typhoons.
While Thailand has contained the spread of the virus, its tourism industry has been gutted by international travel restrictions while weak global demand and a strengthening baht have pummeled exports. The nation’s economy is forecast to shrink 7.1% this year.
Good sign for Thailand
According to tourist industry experts, the prospect for Thailand in seeing flow of tourists may begin by the end of 2021, while tourism industry in the Philippines may continue to suffer until the end of 2021.