Asia’s ‘travel bubbles’ could change travelling post-pandemic

South-east Asian countries are considering creating “travel bubbles” with their neighbours to safely resume travel ahead of a vaccine. South-east Asian tourism leaders propose creating “travel bubbles”, such as one between Myanmar and China, to encourage regional travel, a Chinese tourist sightseeing at Mingun Pahtodawgyi temple in Myanmar pictured

Hla Myint, director (promotions department) at Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said at a recent meeting of ASEAN ministers, a series of strategies to revive tourism were discussed. These include the need to develop standardised measures for issues such as health insurance. Introducing “travel bubbles”, similar to what has been implemented with China and South Korea, was also mooted.

On May 1, a bubble was opened for business travellers moving between 10 Chinese regions and South Korea. The conditions are that they must test negative for Covid-19 prior to departure and upon arrival.

Said Hla: “Travel bubbles will probably start with neighbouring countries, for example, Myanmar and China, Laos and Thailand. The most important thing is we don’t have to have a quarantine, so we need to discuss more details and develop a system between neighbouring countries.”

Xu Jing, former UNWTO director, added: “In the medium-term, we need to look at bubble travel, this is point-to-point. We can use China as an example because domestic travel within China is like international travel distance-wise. We can use this to adapt to neighbouring countries.”

With hundreds of thousands of non-natives living and working across the region, tourism leaders were urged to include in these bubbles those without citizenship or an ASEAN passport who have not crossed any borders during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Steven Schipani, the senior specialist at Asian Development Bank, noted: “There are a lot of third party nationals that would be eager to cross borders, so if countries do come up with a travel bubble concept, I certainly think that is something they should consider.”

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