June 27, 2022

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Travelers return to Southeast Asia but inflation could hurt recovery

2 min read

After more than two years of lockdowns and border controls, Southeast Asia is finally experiencing some semblance of the old days of travel.

Flights are steadily returning to 2019 levels in the region’s major economies, with Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia being the most popular destinations this year, according to the flight data analytics firm Cirium.

In Singapore, which had the most inbound flight bookings in the region this year, bookings rose from around 30% of 2019 levels in January to 48% by mid-June. The Philippines also saw a sharp uptick in bookings, from about 20% at the start of January, to almost 40% by mid-June, according to Cirium.

Tourism is a key moneymaker for Southeast Asia, a region which saw international visitors more than double from 63 million in 2009 to 139 million in 2019, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

The industry accounts for around 10% of gross domestic product in Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia and between 20% and 25% of GDP in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines, according to a May 2022 report published by the Asian Development Bank.

Cirium’s chart on the absolute number of flight seats booked in 2022 in Southeast Asia and Nepal.

The pandemic “was probably more devastating in Southeast Asia than the rest of the world [because] governments kept the borders closed for almost two years,” said Gary Bowerman, director of the travel research firm Check-in Asia. “There were even restrictions on domestic travel.”

“If you compare that to North America or Europe, for example, in both years 2020 and 2021 … they had some tourism and travel flows,” he said.

Changing travel habits

Most countries in Southeast Asia — including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines — have stopped requiring fully vaccinated travelers to take Covid-19 tests before traveling.

After Singapore dropped its pre-travel testing requirement in April, business has been “picking…



2022-06-23 03:22:32

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