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International travel may return to pre-COVID-19 level by 2023
ADB economists Matthias Helble and Won Hee Cho said that based on the pace of immunization in Asian countries, outbound travels with vaccine passes in the region may hit 355 million by 2023, close to the 359 million in 2019.
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International travel may return to pre-COVID-19 level by 2023

Elijah Felice Rosales (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — International travel in Asia-Pacific may return to pre-pandemic level by 2023, but a six-month delay in the vaccination rollouts may push tourism recovery to 2024, according to the Asian Development Bank.

ADB economists Matthias Helble and Won Hee Cho said that based on the pace of immunization in Asian countries, outbound travels with vaccine passes in the region may hit 355 million by 2023, close to the 359 million in 2019.

However, a six-month delay in the vaccination programs may result in a full-year delay with outbound travels reaching 368 million only by 2024.

Helble and Cho said tourism recovery would also depend on the rate of immunization in a country. Economies that can achieve herd immunity by vaccinating at least 70 percent of their population will be first to send tourists abroad, as well as reopen their borders.

“The recovery is also expected to be uneven, both in terms of outbound and inbound travelers. People from economies with fast and successful vaccine rollout will probably be first to travel en masse again,” the ADB economists said in a blog.

“Likewise, economies that have achieved a faster widespread vaccination would more likely be the first to open their borders for international tourism,” they said.

They asked governments to harmonize the rules and regulations on cross-border travel and come up with a common vaccine pass that can be agreed upon through existing trade deals and technical agreements.

Further, the ADB economists said countries should allow the entry of travelers without vaccine passes, as immunization may take years to finish due to supply and distribution issues.

In turn, governments should unify their quarantine protocols to facilitate the travel of individuals who have yet to receive their vaccine shots. In Asia, testing requirements before departure and during quarantine differ and should be integrated to make travel predictable for all stakeholders, the ADB economists said.

They proposed that governments agree on a digital system wherein they can exchange data on possible contacts of a COVID-19 positive person to improve tracing efforts. Also, authorities are asked to merge the tourism bubbles with vaccine passes to stimulate appetite for travel.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, global tourism lost $4.49 billion in revenues and gave up 61.6 million workers last year as it suffered from the travel restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the virus.

In the Philippines, inbound tourist arrivals plunged by more than 82 percent to 1.48 million in 2020 from 8.26 million in 2019.

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