In April, Gary Bowerman analysed the trials and tribulations of governments across Asia Pacific as they falter in their quest to reopen travel and tourism.
The article was published by the Asia Media Centre in Wellington, New Zealand, to mark the launch of the two-way Trans Tasman Travel Bubble between Australia and New Zealand.
Here’s the introductory section of the article:
Asian Travellers Remain Grounded
With borders largely closed since March 2020, Asian travellers remain grounded while the tourism, airline and hospitality firms continue to suffer crippling losses.
Sectors aligned to travel, such as retail, hospitality, transport, theme parks and World Heritage sites, currently rely on income generated by domestic tourists during weekends and public holidays.
Indirect tax revenues for governments have been heavily reduced.
Against this economic backdrop, the resurgent volatility of Covid-19 in several Asian countries plus slow vaccine rollouts make it difficult to pinpoint where, and when, a travel recovery could commence.
Burst Bubbles & Slow Vaccine Rollouts
Things looked more hopeful back in October 2020. One day before the one-way, quarantine-free travel corridor from New Zealand to Australia was opened on 16 October, Singapore and Hong Kong unveiled their own bilateral travel bubble plan.
The announcement stimulated a wave of hype about similar bubbles opening up across Asia. A piecemeal resurrection of travel seemed viable after months of shuttered borders.
Sadly, it didn’t happen. The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble burst the day before its scheduled take-off on 22 November.
The anti-climax sent governments, travellers and tourism providers into hibernation for a difficult Northern Hemisphere winter of new Covid-19 waves.
A realisation crystallised across Asia that vaccine programmes alongside PCR Covid testing would be the only plausible catalyst for a travel recovery in 2021.
But the first quarter of 2021 didn’t quite go to plan.