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International tourist arrivals in the APAC region declined by more than 75% in the first eight months of 2020.

Though major economies across Asia Pacific (APAC) started negotiating travel bubble pacts with their key source countries to revive the tourism sector, recovery to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels may take time even after all restrictions are withdrawn, says GlobalData, a data and analytics company.

International tourist arrivals in the APAC region declined by more than 75% in the first eight months of 2020. 

Hong Kong reported a loss of more than 90% international visitors in the same period, followed by Japan, South Korea, Macao with more than 80%, and Singapore and Thailand by 79% and 75%, respectively. China, where the COVID-19 was first reported, saw the highest reduction in inbound visitors of 87% in Q1 2020.

“Sharp decline in tourist arrivals is reflected in the hotel occupancy data too. Occupancy rate in Thailand’s hotel sector fell sharply to 28% during first eight months of 2020 compared to the 72% in same period previous year. Singapore and Hong Kong also reported 23% and 50% decline, respectively,” said Aditi Dutta Chowdhury, Economic Research Analyst at GlobalData.

Countries have started establishing green/fast lanes and travel corridors since May. Thailand has already set up travel corridors with its neighboring countries to welcome international visitors along with the approval of “special tourist visa” for long-staying visitors. Hong Kong and Singapore are working to set up travel bubble without quarantine restriction, subject to pre-departure negative COVID-19 test. Similarly, South Korea and Taiwan are cautiously reopening borders for foreign tourist arrivals.

Major Asian countries are taking initiatives to form travel bubble with the cities from mainland China to encourage the travel without restrictions as China is the major tourism source market.

Japan is likely to reopen its border for international tourists in April 2021 before rescheduled Olympics starting on July 23, 2021 while creating travel corridors with its key trading partners to facilitate business tourists in 2020.

Japan envisages spending USD 34.6 millioin to enhance information to travelers and promote tourism destinations. Malaysia delayed tax instalments of 2020 by six months for tourism sector. Hong Kong launched several support packages of USD 217 million (as on October 9, 2020) to the tourism sector.

“At a time when the tourists’ confidence levels are at the lowest, robust safety and hygiene protocols along with the adoption of contactless technologies are the need of the hour for the recovery of the travel and tourism sector,” Ms. Chowdhury concludes. 

“In addition, countries in the region are being cautious in reopening their borders so that they do not have to withhold the easing of tourist restrictions in the face of second wave of infection being witnessed across Europe. As a result, recovery to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels may take time.”

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