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Fewer Chinese tour groups, more independent travellers to reboot SE Asia travel

The Thaiger

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Fewer Chinese tour groups, more independent travellers to reboot SE Asia travel | The Thaiger
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Hoping that Chinese tourism is going to ride magically back into Thailand on the back of a gleaming red dragon and save the tattered tourism sector may be precipitous. Of course there are so, so many unknowns even the regular travel writers and consultants are scrambling to forecast a way forward.

For Thailand, the ban on international flights hasn’t even been lifted and expected to be in place until the end of May at least. Even then there will be plenty of questions with completely unknown answers.

• What restrictions will be imposed on international travellers? Covid insurance? Health certificates? Quarantine? Restrictions on internal travel?

• And which countries will be ready or able to travel? Parts of Europe, the UK and the US are still in the midst of their first wave of Covid-19 cases and the international count continues to rise at around 80-90,000 new cases a day over the past month.

• What restrictions will foreign governments put on outbound travel for their own citizens?

• Will the world’s middle class be able to afford the discretionary income to travel any time soon? Will they have a job? How strong is their local economies? Have they cut into their savings over the past three months?

• Once, and if, a vaccine is developed, will we have a vaccine stamp in our passports? …only those who have either had Covid-19 or had the vaccine can travel?

But back to the Chinese. They have already declared their aspirations to travel once their own outbound travel restrictions are lifted. Chinese tourism filled up around 27% of all arrivals into Thailand in 2019 (10,994,721 out of the total 39,797,406).

Phuket-based hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks surveyed “qualified travellers” living in China’s tier one cities were asked whether they wanted to travel abroad this year, with 49% responding in the affirmative.

David Johnson, Delivering Asia Communications’ CEO says that a 360 view of the results from over 1,000 qualified respondents concludes that tourism for the remainder of the year will be heavily leveraged by younger travellers in the age range of 20 to 29 years old.

Vietnam proved particularly popular for hopeful holidaymakers. 45% of respondents said they wanted to vacation there, not only because it appears to have successfully kept Covid-19 at bay, with fewer than 300 infections and no deaths reported, but also because of its proximity.

Bill Barnett, says that a post-crisis short-term ‘fear factor’ is expected for extended air travel, which will be manifested in a preference for short-haul, door-to-door flights, which is a key opportunity for China outbound to Vietnam.

“Other countries across the region will want to take advantage of those sentiments.”

The old tour bus cliche with the guide leading the way with the flag may have been an accessible entry point for first-time Chinese traveller, but with a looming unemployment crisis threatening the Chinese economy, it seems unlikely that 2020 will be the year in which many make their first foray abroad.

Even younger adventurers might tread lightly on foreign shores for a while, but if those with the means to adventure overseas choose to do so, it will probably be on their own, not as a group tour.

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Indonesia

UPDATE: At least 34 dead and 600 injured after Indonesia earthquake

Caitlin Ashworth

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UPDATE: At least 34 dead and 600 injured after Indonesia earthquake | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Soumyajit Pattnaik via Twitter

UPDATE: At least 34 people were killed after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake shook Indonesia’s Sulawesi island just after midnight today. As of this evening, reports say more than 600 people were injured during the earthquake which caused buildings to collapse and residents to flee their homes in the dark.

Original story below…

Indonesian island Sulawesi was shook by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake shortly after midnight today, toppling over buildings and injuring hundreds. Reports are continuously being updated as rescuers search through rubble. As of early this afternoon, at least 10 people were killed.

Thousands evacuated their homes in West Sulawesi. The earthquake impacted the coastal city Majene where at least 3 people died and neighbouring Mamuju where at least 7 people died. Several buildings, including hotels, were severely damaged and many homes were flattened. A hospital was partially damaged and reports say more than a dozen patients and staff were trapped under the rubble. Others are trapped in rubble after their homes collapsed. A rescuer says “We are racing against time to rescue them.”

Videos have been released of those crying for help. A father crying, calling out for help to save his children under their home’s wreckage. In another, a girl’s voice cried out from a collapsed home, saying “please help me, it hurts.” The video was released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. Rescuers say they need an excavator to say the girl and other people who are trapped under the collapsed buildings.

The area was first hit by a 5.9 magnitude undersea quake on Thursday. It damaged several buildings, but no deaths were reported.

Since the most recent earthquake is inland, the district’s disaster agency chief says it does not have the potential to cause a tsunami, but people in coastal areas ran to higher ground just to be safe.

The vast archipelago is located on the “Ring of Fire” of volcanoes and fault lines, prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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Indonesia

Indonesia rolls out Covid-19 vaccinations, president gets first dose

Caitlin Ashworth

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Indonesia rolls out Covid-19 vaccinations, president gets first dose | The Thaiger
PHOTO: President Joko Widodo via Facebook

Indonesia is rolling out its mass Covid-19 vaccination campaign with President Joko Widodo as the first in the country to get jabbed with China’s Sinovac Biotech vaccine.

Indonesia approved the vaccine for emergency use earlier this week. It’s the first large-scale use of the Sinovac vaccine outside of China. Thailand has also made an agreement to purchase the 2 million doses of China’s Sinovac BioTech shots. The first batch of 200,000 doses is expected to arrive in Thailand next month.

The Thai company Siam Bioscience is producing AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, which was developed in partnership with Oxford University. That vaccine is set to be available to the Thai public in May.

After Indonesia’s president was vaccinated, top military, police and medical officials in the country were injected with the vaccine. The secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council were also vaccinated. The council recently agreed that the vaccine is halal, permissible for Muslims.

Mass vaccination in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populated country with 181.5 million people, will be rolled out over the next few months. Vaccines will be free for all Indonesian citizens. Health care workers, civil servants and those at risk of infection are first priority.

To vaccinate two-thirds of the population with the 2-shot vaccine, the country’s health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin says around 427 million doses are needed.

“This vaccine is given to achieve herd immunity. All 70% of the world’s people must be vaccinated for that to be achieved. The participation of all Indonesians will greatly determine the success of this program.”

SOURCE: Associated Press

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Malaysia

Malaysia PM imposes nationwide travel ban, lockdown measures due to Covid-19 spike

Caitlin Ashworth

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Malaysia PM imposes nationwide travel ban, lockdown measures due to Covid-19 spike | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin - The Star

As the number of Covid-19 cases continues to climb in Malaysia, PM Muhyiddin Yassin imposed a nationwide travel ban and ordered lockdown measures for Kuala Lumpur and 5 other states for the next 14 days. The country’s prime minister says “our healthcare system is at a breaking point.”

Malaysia was able to keep the coronavirus at bay during the early stages of the pandemic with strict disease control measures. Covid-19 cases were consistently around 100 to 200 cases per day and dropped down to zero daily cases for several weeks in July and August.

While lockdown measures were effective at slowing the spread of the virus, it led the country’s first economic contraction in a decade during the second quarter.

The new wave of infections started in September. Yesterday, the country reported 28,554 active Covid-19 cases with 2,232 daily new infections. Since February of last year, Malaysia has reported a total of 138,224 Covid-19 cases and 555 deaths.

Lockdown measures in Kuala Lumpur and 5 states start at midnight Wednesday. Only essential businesses can remain open including those in economic sectors, as long as they reduce capacity. Interstate travel is banned nationwide.

Malaysia secured 12.8 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and recently announced that they purchased 12.2 million more doses. The first batch is expected to arrive by the end of February.

Malaysia PM imposes nationwide travel ban, lockdown measures due to Covid-19 spike | News by The Thaiger

Active Covid-19 cases in Malaysia as of January 11, according to Worldometers.

SOURCE: Reuters

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