The islands of Southeast Asia are opening up to visitors again – one small step at a time.
In the region are countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia that kept Covid rates low in 2020.
That changed with the introduction of the Delta variant, which for the first time forced many Southeast Asian nations to grapple with large outbreaks.
Plans to reopen popular hotspots like Phuket and Bali have been put on hold. Singapore also saw cases rise and its borders largely closed off to tourists.
Many southeastern states are cautiously opening up to travelers. One seems to have opened his doors wide.
On July 1st, Thailand pioneered the reopening of tourism in Southeast Asia with its unique “sandpit” program.
Thailand announced this week that it will reopen its popular tourist destinations and major cities by the end of the year.
According to the plan, vaccinated travelers who tested negative for Covid-19 before and after arrival can enter Phuket without quarantine. The island welcomed 26,400 vaccinated visitors in July and August and generated tourism income of 1.63 billion Thai baht ($ 48.5 million) in July and August, according to a report by the Thailand Tourism Authority.
Now vaccinated travelers can visit other parts of Thailand, including Koh Samui Island and parts of Krabi and Phang-Nga provinces.
On Monday, the Thai authorities announced that they would open a large part of the country in the next three months. Authorities approved a four-phase reopening schedule that prioritizes popular tourist destinations, including Bangkok.
Thailand’s plans to reopen
|phase||Start date||What’s up|
|pilot||Oct. 1||Further reopening of Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi and Phang-Nga; more places open in Krabi|
|1||November 1st||Reopening of 7 more provinces including popular spots like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Hua Hin|
|2||Dec 1||20 additional provinces reopened, including Ayutthaya, Chiang Rai, Songkhla, Sukhothai, Trang, Trat and Yala|
|3||January 1, 2022||Reopening of 13 additional border provinces, including Satun, Surin and Udon Thani|
According to VGP News, the Vietnamese government’s online newspaper, the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc (pronounced “foo kwok”) is slated to reopen to vaccinated international visitors in October.
The island, Vietnam’s largest, is less well known than other Southeast Asian islands, which is one reason travelers are drawn to it. Phu Quoc is home to white sand beaches and night markets and has a UNESCO recognized biosphere reserve and one of the longest cable cars in the world connected to nearby Hon Thom (Pineapple Island).
The Phu Quoc cable car is one of the longest in the world and covers a distance of almost 8 km in 15 minutes.
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Phu Quoc is to be opened in phases. For the first three months, the island is targeting 2,000 to 3,000 visitors per month, according to the Vietnamese authorities. These visitors can arrive by charter jets and visit a limited number of locations on the island.
In the second phase, which should also last three months, according to the news report, around 5,000 to 10,000 visitors can come in on commercial flights and experience more of the island.
Vietnam is expected to welcome “visitors from markets with high tourism potential and epidemic safety … such as Northeast Asia, Europe, the US and the Middle East,” according to the article.
Singapore welcomed flights with European tourists this month, the first in about 1 1/2 years.
Under vaccinated routes, vaccinated travelers from Germany and Brunei can visit Singapore without quarantine if they pass four Covid-19 tests.
Singapore welcomes visitors from select countries with two programs – air passports and vaccinated itineraries.
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If the program works well, Singapore plans to open travel routes to other countries, according to the Singapore authorities.
Travelers from select parts of Asia can also travel to Singapore regardless of their vaccination status by applying for an Air Travel Pass. This program is currently open to travelers from Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, and Taiwan.
After several postponements, plans for a travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong ended last month. The two governments decided to stop tracking the travel bubble due to differences in their anti-Covid strategies.
The largest and most populous country in Southeast Asia is taking steps to welcome visitors soon.
The islands of Bali, Bintan and Batam are part of a pilot to reopen thanks to their vaccination rates, safety protocols, health infrastructure and international demand, a representative from the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism told CNBC.
However, a date for the reopening has not yet been known, said the representative.
As of this month, Bali is well on its way to opening to international tourists in October.
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Bali’s reopening has been postponed several times this year due to outbreaks of infection on the island. According to the agent, on September 17th, Bali was well on its way to opening in October.
Not all of them can enter when the island reopens, however.
“For now, only countries with a high level of Covid-19 containment will be considered, such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand,” said the ministry spokesman. “Australia will most likely be included if it has already reached a vaccination rate of 80%.”
Langkawi reopened this month as part of Malaysia’s Tourism Recovery Plan. However, the archipelago, 30 kilometers from Malaysia’s northwest coast, is only open to vaccinated domestic tourists.
The government announced that it expects to welcome domestic visitors to other popular tourist destinations such as Tioman Island, Johor, Melaka and the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
Langkawi has been reopened to travelers, but only to travelers residing in Malaysia.
From TourTrophy | Moment | Getty Images
International travelers will be welcome in Phase 4 of the plan, according to the Malaysian Tourism Authority.
Langkawi is a popular resort for local tourists and is known for its beaches, rainforests and abundant wildlife.
Malaysia has seen a significant drop in tourism revenue due to pandemic restrictions. The country took $ 9.08 billion off its annual revenue last year and gave up 83.4% of its attendance in 2019 – the third highest of all countries, according to Next Vacay.
Correction: In an earlier version of this article, the Vietnamese island name Hon Thom was misspelled.