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Asia in 2021?

· Travel News

With interest in international travel picking up, and word that the EU is expected to reopen any week now to US travelers.  Travelers are starting to ask about Asia.  What about Asia?  Can we go to Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, S. Korea, Vietnam and others?  Current these places are all pretty much closed off to international travelers and have been so for most of the last year.  

With some exceptions such as at times Singapore and Vietnam were allowing international arrivals, and Thailand is planning to reopen Phuket in next month or two.

I decided today's blog will be an update on Asia.  Sources for this information come from my industry sources on the ground in Asia, so you know it is accurate and it is what local travel industry reps feel about when Asia will reopen to travel.


While Asia's overall numbers remain lower than many parts of the world, there has been a significant uptick in COVID infections recently due to spreading of the 'UK variant'. Overall, destinations have reacted quickly by implementing effective safety measures and, while numbers remain elevated, the situation seems to be stabilizing.


Compared with western nations, vaccinations in Asia destinations have progressed slowly. Helped by their relatively small populations, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos have all made reasonable progress while Indonesia has done fairly well considering its large population.    

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 With the above points being taken into consideration, the question on everyone's mind is: when will travel open up in Asia again? This of course depends on a number of factors and every destination will be different. Any prediction more than a few months in advance is purely speculation at this point.

 However, based on my experience, the summary above is likely to be accurate. Some destinations such as Thailand (Phuket), Indonesia (Bali) and Singapore may cautiously reopen to travel by Q3 of this year. Asia overall,  however, is likely to begin normalizing by the start of 2022. 



   Country by Country Summary:



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Despite efforts to contain COVID so that travel could return prior to Olympics, Japan remains effectively closed to tourism while facing its fourth wave of infections. The Olympics will go on in July and August, but foreign visitors will not be able to attend. A vaccine passport system is being implemented that may allow for a resumption of international travel in the future, but it's still too early to predict exactly when this will happen. 



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Despite a significant uptick in COVID infections recently, Thailand is still technically open for international tourism. With the resumption of a universal 14-day quarantine-on-arrival, though, few are considering travel to the Kingdom despite some attractive options such as quarantining at a golf resort. As of this writing, however, the government is pushing ahead with its 'Sandbox'  scheme that would allow vaccinated travellers to enter Phuket without quarantine by July. This is contingent upon the success of a vaccination drive on the islandthat looks to have 70% of its residents vaccinated by then. So far, they are on schedule with this but, with the recent increase in infections, it remains to be seen if the Sandbox scheme will go forward as planned.   



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With its significant success in controlling COVID up until recently, Vietnam had plans of a staggered reopening phase with travel bubbles in central Vietnamese beach towns that was set to begin between July and September. With the emergence of another wave of infections both within the country and regionally, this plan has been shelved for the time being. Furthermore, Vietnam's quarantine on arrival for visitors has been extended from 14 to 21 days since 5 May. 



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Similar to Thailand, despite the arrival of new COVID variants, Indonesia is pushing ahead with its Travel Corridor Agreement (TCA) programme, which would see a return of international visitors to the islands of Bali, Bintan and Batam in July. Other sites under consideration for the TCA programme are Yogyakarta in Java, Belitung Island and Lake Toba in Sumatra. While many details remain unsettled, TCA would allow citizens from countries with low infections and high vaccinations to visit these areas. Talks are currently underway with Netherlands, UAE, China and South Korea. This is likely to change in weeks and months ahead.   



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Like other countries in the region, Malaysia is currently seeing a surge in COVID cases. Leisure travel for international tourists remains off limits, and those with permission to enter the country for other reasons must quarantine in a government facility. In February,  Malaysia launched its nationwide vaccination programme which is on target to inoculate 80% of its 32 million people within 2021.    



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Despite a rise in infections recently, Singapore is planning to go ahead with plans to open a travel corridor with Hong Kong, although the timing of it has been delayed due to recent circumstances. They are also looking at plans to reopen for vaccinated travellers later in the year.  Their vaccination programme is also moving ahead quickly.    



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China accepts US Travelers inoculated with American-made vaccines. The Chinese Embassy in the United States issued a notice on April 21, 2021, allowing US passengers vaccinated with American-made non-inactivated vaccines to depart from Dallas and enter the Chinese mainland. The accepted American-made non-inactivated vaccines include vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The Notice required that passengers must get all the required shots before their trip to China. China-bound passengers are also required to provide positive IgM antibody test results as well as negative nucleic acid test results. 

Hong Kong, S. Korea and Taiwan are premitted for transit at airports, but US Citizens are not yet able to visit these popular Asia countries at this time and will likely open around the same time as the rest of Asia does.

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Luxury Travel Advisor