Flying in Asia in 2021 with health passports, anti-COVID restrictions and higher costs

Fewer flights and more checks will reduce travel. Air traffic fell by 67 per cent in 2020 over the previous year. Almost US$ 1 trillion in revenues have been lost. A return to pre-pandemic levels is not expected before 2024. Free cancellations and vaccine tours have been proposed to boost the industry.


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The travel industry will have to wait for the introduction of a health passport before it can start up again after being clobbered by the COVID-19 pandemic, this according to Asian travel operators.

The industry expects travel restrictions to remain in place well into 2021, with travelling limited mostly to bubbles or business lanes.

With fewer flights and more checks, flying will be more expensive and less frequent. Like last year, tourists will privilege their own countries and not travel abroad.

Big countries like China have already focused on domestic tourism. However, for several observers, domestic markets will not compensate for the losses caused by to the collapse of international travel.

Experts who spoke with the South China Morning Post believe that tourism in Asia won’t return to pre-pandemic levels before 2024 at the earliest.

Air traffic in 2020 was down by 67 per cent compared to 2019, this according to Cirium, a travel industry data and analytics agency.

One of the first things governments did after the COVID-19 outbreak was to stop air travel.

The UN United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWT) expects international tourism to decline by over 70 per cent in 2020, back to the levels of 30 years ago. In the January-October period last year, it estimates that the world lost US$ 935 billion in revenues.

The Asia-Pacific region saw the biggest decrease in foreign tourist arrivals, at 82 per cent, a devastating blow for the region, where tourism has played a key role in local economies.

Many countries have not yet re-opened their air space. However, Thailand recently eased travel restrictions on visitors from 56 nations, but the latter are still required to be quarantined for 14 days and must present a health certificate to prove that they are COVID-19 free.

Vietnam too allows some commercial flights, as does Singapore.

For travel operators, travellers must be provided with an incentive to spend. New strategies could see, for example, visitors allowed to change dates or cancel reservations without additional costs. They might also include “health tours” with people travelling to another country to get a specific vaccine.

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