The head of the global airline body says the region has fallen behind the rest of the world in the resumption of international travel.
Asia-Pacific countries are “playing” on the resumption of international travel and should ease the remaining border restrictions related to the pandemic without delay, the head of the airline industry representative said. world said on Tuesday.
Speaking at an aviation summit in Singapore, Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said the region was falling behind the global trend despite the “growing momentum” to lift bans.
“The need for people to travel is clear. When the steps relax there is an immediate positive reaction from travelers,” Walsh said in a keynote address at the Changi Aviation Summit. “That’s why it’s important. all stakeholders, including governments, are well prepared for a start again. We cannot delay. Jobs are in jeopardy and people want to travel. ”
Walsh said the region’s air travel in the first quarter of 2022 was only 17 percent at 2019 levels – compared to about 60 percent in Europe, North America, and Latin America.
“Things are improving, but it will not improve fast unless countries follow the initiative of countries like Singapore and remove the requirements for tests and quarantine for vaccinated travelers,” he said. Walsh, who previously served as CEO of British Airways and Aer Lingus in Ireland. .
Walsh said governments should lift all bans for vaccinated travelers and quarantine and test COVID-19 for unvaccinated arrival at most destinations with high levels of resistance. in the population.
“Things are improving, but they will not progress fast unless countries follow the initiative of countries like Singapore and remove the requirements for tests and quarantine for vaccinated travelers,” he said. . “Science supports these initiatives.”
While most countries in the region have welcomed the return of tourists in recent months, many destinations still require a COVID test which puts travelers at risk of losing their flight or shipping. in quarantine.
Walsh chose China and Japan, the last major travel restrictions along with Taiwan, as major recovery holes in the region.
Tokyo announced on Tuesday that it will start allowing limited package trips from this month as a “test” to collect information for a much better tourism resume before a later date is determined. Beijing, which has doubled down on an ultra-strict “dynamic zero COVID” policy to eradicate the virus, has given no indication of when China will be able to open its borders.
“As long as the Chinese government continues to maintain their zero-COVID approach, it will be difficult to see the country’s borders open up. It will hinder the full recovery of the region,” Walsh said.
“While Japan is taking steps to allow travel, there is no clear plan for reopening Japan for all visitors or tourists. Much more needs to be done to ease restrictions on travel, starting with lifting quarantine for all vaccinated travelers, and removing on-arrival airport testing and daily arrival cap.I urge the Japanese government to take more bold steps towards recovery and rehabilitation. open to national borders.
Gary Bowerman, director of Kuala Lumpur-based travel and tourism research firm Check-in Asia, said the region’s slow recovery underscores the importance of China and Japan to travel and tourism.
“China for example provided 32 million visitors, almost un-room of all visitors, to ASEAN in 2019. That level of visitation is irreplaceable,” Bowerman told Al Jazeera.
“Southeast Asia and Australia are heavily dependent on air traffic from China and Northeast Asia. Until China also opens up, recovery in Southeast Asia, for example, will have a much lower ceiling. The region’s air travel ecosystem is in high demand in China because it combines a mix of Chinese carriers, national carriers and short carriers.