BANGKOK / SYDNEY: Thailand, Australia and Israel significantly relaxed international border restrictions on Monday for the first time in 18 months, offering a broad test of tourism and travel demand around the world amid the pandemic of coronavirus.
Hundreds of vaccinated foreign tourists have arrived in the Thai capital for a quarantine-free journey after the Southeast Asian nation approved visitors from more than 60 countries, including China and the United States.
Several European countries are also on the list as Thailand, one of Asia’s most popular destinations, seeks to capitalize on visitors to the northern hemisphere looking to escape the winter blues.
Those hopes seemed to pay off quickly, with German tourist Simon Raithel and a group of friends among the first to arrive.
“Right now in Europe it’s pretty cold,” said Raithel, 41, who was planning to visit the islands in southern Thailand. “We just chose this flight and it’s quite surprising that we are the first flight to arrive.”
In Sydney, hundreds of citizens were greeted by family and friends as they became the first to arrive without a permit or the need for quarantine since April 2020.
â(It’s) a little scary and exciting,â said Ethan Carter, from Los Angeles. “I came home to see my mother because she is not well.”
While travel is initially limited to a few states and Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, and New Zealand nationals, this heralds a plan to reopen to tourists and international workers, both of whom are essential to reinvigorating a nation. tired.
Australia’s announcement of a quarantine-free travel for Singapore citizens from November 21 was a step towards “a new normal,” said Philip Goh, Asia-Pacific vice president of the organization of IATA airlines.
“We are excited about this positive development and look forward to further easing of border restrictions by Australia and other countries in the region,” Goh said.
“YOU MISSED THE GUYS”
Israel also relaxed travel rules on Monday, but tourists should read the fine print before booking.
âWelcome to Israel,â the government said in a Tweet alongside a big blue heart. âWe missed you guys. “
Individual tourists are allowed entry if they have received COVID-19 vaccine reminders – but not if more than six months have passed since their last dose, with a few exceptions.
This tempered the enthusiasm of hoteliers.
âHow many tourists around the world have received reminders or are seated within six months of their second dose? Yael Danieli, CEO of the Israel Hotel Association, said in the days leading up to the relaxation.
“Even though both parents in a family are vaccinated, their children under 12 are not, so they usually cannot come to Israel.”
Members of tour groups are exempt from the six-month rule but will be required to undergo PCR or antigen testing every 72 hours for the first two weeks of their stay.
Despite the relaxed restrictions, the booming world travel is still a long way off. IATA estimates losses at $ 200 billion due to the pandemic for the global aviation industry over the period 2020 to 2022.
In Asia alone, losses reached nearly $ 50 billion in 2020, while in August and September, international travel to Asia-Pacific was around 4% of 2019 levels.
Thai authorities tested the waters by reopening the resort island of Phuket in July, letting fully vaccinated tourists skip the then mandatory two-week quarantine, provided they stay on the island, where tourism accounts for 90% economy.
However, the “Phuket Sandbox” was less popular than expected, with arrivals in July at just 1% of pre-pandemic levels.
Thailand is forecasting just 180,000 foreign arrivals this year and 7 million next year, up from around 40 million in 2019.
Thailand’s new program requires visitors to spend their first night in a pre-approved hotel and get a negative COVID-19 test before they can travel elsewhere.
Australia’s changes allow millions of people to travel for free in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, as well as the Australian Capital Territory. Other locations, however, are closed or restricted.
Britain on Monday removed the last seven countries from its coronavirus “red list”, which currently requires newly arrived travelers from these destinations to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine.
The United States will lift international travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers on November 8.