By LYDIA NATHAN / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
MALAYSIANS are not keen on travelling abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as data from digital platform Agoda.com showed zero international destinations searches both in December 2020 and March 2021.
Its top domestic searched cities were Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Baru, Langkawi and Port Dickson.
Across South-East Asia, both the Philippines and Thailand also recorded the same trend of zero international searches, but featured strongly as destinations with Bangkok securing a spot in six out of 11 origin markets’ top 30 search lists.
Data from Agoda.com showed that travellers in Australia, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia saw an increase in the number of international destinations in the top 30 searches in March 2021, compared to December last year.
Travellers from China, Taiwan and Singapore also recorded a growing optimism for the resumption of international travel.
Agoda.com CEO John Brown said confidence in the vaccine rollout, discussions around Covid- 19 passports and alternative state quarantine announcements have triggered an increase in international travel searches.
“Agoda’s search data highlights green shoots of recovery and a growing optimism by travellers across Asia that international travel will start to return,” he said.
Brown said the platform’s data revealed that booking patterns have began to normalise and return to pre-Covid times, as behaviour indicators such as lead times and prices, which both reduced heavily in the spring and summer of 2020, dipped less sharply.
“There are definitely reasons for the travel industry in Asia to start feeling more optimistic, and vaccines will be critical to full recovery, but initiatives like government subsidy programmes, such as in “Thailand Together” or “GoTo Japan” have been successful in harnessing the demand for travel and supporting domestic accommodation providers,” he said.
However, Brown added that there is still work to be done as the vaccine programmes being rolled out will be phased according to various paces, with some markets such as Singapore being fully vaccinated this year and others like Japan, Thailand and Vietnam looking more likely at 2022.
He said heavy-tourism-dependent-economies must accelerate to return to normalcy, as governments innovate how to approach reopening of borders, balancing the very real need for the safety of its own citizens and visitors alike, with the economic reality.
“For the foreseeable future, quarantine remains a stumbling block to international travel, so the provision of alternative state quarantine, as launched in Thailand and Hong Kong, might prove to be a sensible solution in line with a vaccine pro-gramme. Corporate technology partners that are able to move fast can provide governments with support to manage the complex variables that markets face,” Brown said.
He also added that public-private collaboration will be an integral part as countries work together towards the sustainable recovery of the travel and tourism industry. “International travel will take on a new reality with integrated measures to facilitate safe and responsible international travel, ranging from rapid testing, health certificates, Covid-19 vaccine passports and more. Quarantine stays is another key measure with the likes of Thailand and Hong Kong governments exploring ways for travellers to embrace quarantine stays, working closely with private companies to assist with technology solutions,” he said.
Brown noted that initiatives like the Taiwan-Palau or potential Australia-Singapore travel bubbles have made a change and brought about a ray of hope.
“With more markets exploring travel corridors, Alternative State Quarantine accommodation pro-vides a solution to help resume international travel by enabling travellers choose a quarantine property that best suits their needs. We are working closely with local governments and our accommodation partners to iden- tify tech-enabled solutions to spur on and support the revival of local tourism economies,” he said.