by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / pic by TMR FILE
A FULL recovery in travel demand is likely by the end of 2022 provided aggressive vaccination takes place.
AirAsia Malaysia CEO Riad Asmat said with the tourism industry contributing over 15% of gross domestic product (GDP), vaccination will play a strong role in getting tourism and the economy back on its feet.
“Asean governments have been working hard to revive tourism and a continuous collaborative policy-making to seize opportunities will maximise the region’s potential in the post-Covid world,” he said.
He added that the company foresaw a gradual travel and tourism recovery by the end of 2021 and through 2022, thanks to accelerated vaccine rollout across its key markets in Asean.
“We expect to be back to pre-Covid levels due to huge pent-up demand for travel,” he said.
According to the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework in November 2020, the tourism industry contributed to 14.3% of the region’s GDP and 13.7% of the total employment in the region.
Cari ED Jukhee Hong said the recent spikes in Covid-19 cases in Asean have delayed the reopening and recovery of the tourism industry.
“Notwithstanding that, the development of the Asean Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework should be concluded as soon as possible to facilitate essential business travels among Asean as the region ramps up vaccination efforts,” she said.
However, cross-sectoral collaborative efforts as well multi-stakeholder public-private partnerships across Asean is important for the recovery of the tourism industry.
Cari Asean chairman Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid said with the virus likely to become endemic, apart from intelligent risk management within borders, mutually agreed standards have to be agreed upon.
“Travel bubbles can start between tourist destinations in the region as the virus is not going away any time soon,” he said during the webinar.
He added that countries that have been trying to reopen the tourism sector are suffering setbacks from the resurgence or new waves of the virus.
“This is even before agreements have been reached on what should be the necessary content of mutually accepted travel wallets,” he said.
Minor International PCL chairman and founder William Heinecke said navigating this pandemic has been like sailing into a hurricane, never knowing if or when the winds will die down.
“At Minor, we are no longer trying to put things back to where they were.
“Instead, we are trying to build, create and imagine new ways of business beyond Covid-19,” he said.
He said the worst for the tourism industry may soon be over, as Thailand has launched Phuket as a sandbox for quarantine-free tourist destinations to vaccinated Thai and foreign travellers from July onwards as well as the rebound of tourism in Europe and China.
“However, the speed of vaccination will be a critical factor in how soon Asean regional travel can thrive again,” he said.
Asean Economic Community deputy secretary-general Satvinder Singh agreed, saying that the pandemic has profoundly changed the landscape of the Asean tourism sector and created opportunities for innovative solutions to circumvent the challenges.
“Asean tourism sector is firmly on the right direction towards a more sustainable and inclusive recovery.
“Collaborative efforts across countries and sectors as well as stronger multi-stakeholder partnerships are key for the successful recovery journey of Asean,” he said.