Welcome to our easy-to read analysis of Asia Pacific’s Top 5 Travel Takeaways: Issue 4.
This week’s snapshots feature the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia and AirAsia.
Each Monday, we deconstruct 5 key travel and tourism stories you may have missed.
Top 5 Travel Takeaways: Issue 4 is adapted from Issue 71 of Asia Travel Re:Set.
1) Tourism Returns to The Philippines
The Philippines postponed its planned reopening for vaccinated travellers just before Christmas, but it is now rescheduled for 10 February.
Takeaway: In mid-November, Philippines said it would welcome vaccinated visitors from 44 Green List countries to enter quarantine-free. A few days later, it increased the eligible list to over 150 countries. Shortly after, Omicron was designated a ‘Variant of Concern’ by the WHO. The Philippines postponed its reopening plans – until now.
2) Vietnam Eyes Travel Restart
Momentum appears to be gathering pace in Vietnam to reopen its borders for travel and tourism. An announcement is expected in early February to welcome back travellers in time for Vietnam to host the 2022 South East Asian Games in May.
Takeaway: Having opened a pilot travel bubble in late 2021, the government is under pressure from influential local conglomerates and travel industry players to take further steps. Postponed from last year, the 2022 South East Asian Games are viewed as an opportunity to showcase Vietnam’s economic dynamism, and test out its new pandemic travel protocols.
3) Japan Halves Quarantine Time
Japan has reduced its on-arrival quarantine period twice in 2 weeks. Firstly, it eased the isolation period from 14 days to 10 days – and, later, to 7 days.
Takeaway: Japan’s COVID-19 border controls continue to be among the strictest in Asia Pacific. Even the experiences of hosting the ‘closed Olympics’ in summer 2021 failed to unlock the airport gates. Now, with mid-winter temperatures plunging and daily infections rising, the government recognises that long quarantines are having little impact. This is unlikely to spark further progress on opening the borders until at least spring.
4) New Airline Take-off in Malaysia
Malaysia gained a new, small-scale airline this week with the launch of SKS Airways. The twin-prop carrier will connect Kuala Lumpur’s second airport, Subang, with island destinations such as Pangkor and Redang.
Takeaway: While it is easier to launch an airline now that planes and staff (although not jet fuel) are cheaper, Malaysia’s domestic aviation scene is over-supplied. Three dominant players, Malaysia Airlines (and its subsidiary Firefly), AirAsia and Malindo, fought intensively for customers pre-pandemic. This ensured high frequencies and low prices. Entering this already competitive arena are two start-up players, SKS Airways and – forthcoming – MyAirline.
5) AirAsia Becomes Capital A
Malaysia-based AirAsia, which is South East Asia’s largest low-cost carrier, cemented its transformation into an investment and online services company by changing its name to Capital A.
Takeaway: Without access to governmental financial support, AirAsia has endured a tough 2 years as its airline business collapsed. Already in motion before the pandemic, it accelerated a shift into the SuperApp realm. AirAsia now offers various online lifestyle services, including ride-hailing, home-delivery, and financial payments plus flights and travel booking. Now renamed Capital A, it is also bidding for one of Malaysia’s new digital banking licences.