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Sabah set to revive tourism industry by helping tour operators

Sabah is set to revive its tourism industry that went “dormant” over the last 18 months since the country was under various movement control orders.

With the lifting of the inter-district travel ban across the state, the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry is now focusing on reviving the state’s tourism industry especially by helping operators restart their businesses.

“We are also working towards restoring tourists’ confidence in our tourism sector to generate income for the state,” its Minister Jafry Ariffin said.

Contrary to the perception that most tourism players might have shuttered down their businesses, Jafry said that only 1% of tourism operators had shut down completely after the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Based on a survey done by the Sabah Tourism Board, he said only 48% temporarily closed operations due to movement control orders.

The number of tour operators who are still fully operational to date is 45.5%, he added.

The ministry is now actively implementing various new approaches including more aggressive and strategic promotional campaigns to revive the tourism industry.

Among them are virtual engagement sessions for Sabah tourism fairs which also involved the Malaysian Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (MATTA), Sabah Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (SATTA), Asia Pacific Tourism Association (PATA) and cooperation with foreign trade in social media campaigns.

He said the state had assisted tourism workers through special assistance during the lockdowns.

Among them, was a one-off assistance of RM2,000 to tour operators and RM300 to tour guides, art activists, dive-masters, mountain guides and porters.

For hotel and accommodation operators, five and four star hotels received RM5,000 while three, two, and one star hotels received RM2,000.

Also receiving the same benefits were hotels that have not been recognised, homestay associations and also the Rural Tourism Association who each received RM1,000 payment.

In addition, he said his ministry offered incentives to encourage domestic tourism activities as well as the organisation of business activities including meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE).

“All parties need to be aware that bringing this sector back to the state before the Covid-19 outbreak will not be an easy task,” he added.

However, tour operators were now able to breathe a sigh of relief following the flexibility granted by the government, which allowed them to resume operations.

“We will always listen to the grievances and challenges faced by industry players at all subsequent levels together to address them comprehensively,” he said, adding that tourism was one of Sabah’s largest economic and employment contributors.

Source: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2021/10/15/sabah-set-to-revive-tourism-industry-by-helping-tour-operators

Thailand to reopen for some vaccinated visitors on 1 November

Thailand plans to end Covid quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers from at least 10 low-risk nations from 1 November, officials say.

PM Prayuth Chan-ocha admitted that “this decision comes with some risk” – but it is seen as a key step to revive the country’s collapsed tourism sector.

The 10 nations seen as low risk include the UK, China, Germany and the US.

The country has been recording more than 10,000 positive infections daily since July.

It has fully vaccinated around 33% of its almost 70 million people. Half the population has received one dose.

Mr Prayuth said Thailand would also allow entertainment venues to reopen on 1 December and permit alcohol sales.

He added that the authorities were planning to open Thailand for more countries on that date.

Mr Prayuth’s comments came in a televised address on Monday.

Referring to visitors from 10 low-risk nations, he stressed that “when they arrive, they should present a [negative] Covid test… and test once again upon arrival”.

If the second test is also negative, any visitor from those countries “can travel freely like Thais”, the prime minister said.

But he warned that the government would act decisively if there were to be a spike in infections or an emergence of a highly contagious variant of Covid-19.

It is estimated that Thailand – popular for its sandy beaches and non-stop nightlife – lost about $50bn (£37bn) in tourism revenue in 2020.

The economy suffered its deepest contraction in more than two decades as a result of the pandemic.

Thailand was the first country outside China to record a Covid-19 case in January last year.

It took the drastic step of sealing its borders in April, effectively killing off a tourist industry accounting for perhaps 20% of GDP, but managed to cut new daily infections to just single figures, one of the best records anywhere.

This year though, with the arrival of the Delta variant, infections have soared, from a total of less than 7,000 at the end of 2020, to 1.7 million today. The argument for keeping out foreign visitors to contain Covid became much less persuasive, especially with tourist-related businesses pleading for restrictions to be eased.

The success in containing Covid last year had another unforeseen consequence; it led the Thai government to believe it had need not rush to order vaccines. The result has been a tardy and at times confused vaccine programme, and a public outcry.

The need for some economic good news is in large part what has driven it to start reopening, well before reaching its own declared target of getting 70% of the population vaccinated.

It is proceeding cautiously though, with only 10 countries on the list until the end of the year. Like other countries in the region Thailand’s health system has limited ICU capacity; in August ICU units in Bangkok were quickly overwhelmed by the number of serious Covid cases.

In any case, even with an end to the two week quarantine requirement, a recovery to the 40 million tourists who came in 2019 is unlikely next year, or even the year after.

Just over 70,000 visitors came into the country in the first eight months of this year, compared with 40 million in the whole of 2019.

Thailand has reported more than 1.7 million confirmed Covid cases since the pandemic began, with nearly 18,000 deaths, according to America’s Johns Hopkins University.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-58838189

African regional bloc loses 92 per cent tourism earnings due to Covid

Six member states of the East African Community (EAC), a regional bloc, lost 92 per cent revenues in the tourism sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a top official said here.

Peter Mathuki, the EAC Secretary General, said that tourist arrivals to the region fell from 6.98 million before the pandemic to 2.25 million at present, causing the losses, adding that the tourism sector was the worst hit by the health criris, reports Xinhua news agency.

“The region is now open again for business,” said Mathuki, urging EAC member states governments and other stakeholders to work together to market the region’s tourist attractions and products as part of efforts to ensure speedy recovery for the sector.

The EAC member nations are Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda.

“Despite the fact that the pandemic has reversed the gains that we had made in the tourism sector, we are quite confident that through collective and collaborative efforts, we should be able to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels of performance and even do better within a span of less than five years,” Mathuki told the first East African regional tourism expo in Tanzania’s northern city of Arusha, also the headquarters of the EAC.

He said that the region had drawn a number of important lessons from the pandemic especially in relation to the economic sectors that were hard hit.

“One lesson that stands out and resonates with most destinations around the world is the need to entrench resilience in the tourism sector,” said Mathuki, adding that the EAC will take a number of steps to enhance recovery in the sector.

Tourism is one of the most significant sectors in all the economies of the EAC region.

The sector contributes an average of about 17 per cent to export earnings and its contribution to GDP is quite substantial averaging at around 10 per cent.

It generates about 7 per cent of employment in the region. Moreover, tourism has important linkages with other sectors of the economy including agriculture, manufacturing, insurance, and finance among others.

Source: https://www.ehospitalitytimes.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=91026&action=edit

Vietnam to fully reopen by June

Hanoi — Vietnam is planning to reopen key tourist destinations to vaccinated visitors from countries deemed a low COVID-19 risk from December, the government said on Wednesday, October 6, ahead of a full resumption targeted for June next year.Vietnam imposed tight border controls at the start of the pandemic in an effort to keep out COVID-19, with some initial success, but that harmed its burgeoning tourism sector, which typically accounts for about 10% of gross domestic product.Last month, the country announced it would reopen the resort island Phu Quoc for vaccinated travelers from November.

Fom December, Vietnam will also allow tourists from approved countries to visit UNESCO world heritage site Halong Bay and Hoi An, the highlands town of Dalat and beach destination Nha Trang. It is not yet clear which countries will meet the criteria.”We are only open when it’s truly safe,” the government said in a statement.”We are moving step by step, cautiously but flexibly to adapt to real situations of the pandemic.”The move follows similar steps taken by neighboring Thailand, which will next month expand locations in its pilot scheme to allow vaccinated visitors.

Foreign arrivals to Vietnam fell to 3.8 million last year down from 18 million in 2019, when tourism revenue was $31 billion, equivalent to 12% of GDP.The country is trying to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations, with just 13% of its 98 million people inoculated so far, one of the lowest rates in Asia.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/vietnam-reopening-vaccinated-tourists-intl-hnk/index.html

Australia won’t welcome foreign tourists until at least 2022

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back to Australia until at least next year, the prime minister said Tuesday as he outlined plans for lifting some of the toughest and longest COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by any democracy.

The country will instead prioritize the return of skilled migrants and students after it hits Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s benchmark for reopening its external borders: the full vaccination of 80% of the population aged 16 and older. It is expected to reach that point Tuesday.

The news comes just days after Morrison announced plans to allow vaccinated citizens and permanent residents to fly overseas from November for the first time since March 2020.

The severe travel restrictions, which have trapped most Australians at home and kept most foreigners out, have led to the lowest level of immigration since World War II. Australian universities, which rely heavily on fees paid by international students, have been particularly hard hit, and many fear students will go elsewhere if they are not allowed in soon.

While many countries imposed strict lockdowns that shut down large portions of the economies, Australia’s travel restrictions have kept life fairly normal for much of the pandemic — though it is now experiencing shutdowns in the biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the capital Canberra.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back to Australia until at least next year, the prime minister said Tuesday as he outlined plans for lifting some of the toughest and longest COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by any democracy.

The country will instead prioritize the return of skilled migrants and students after it hits Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s benchmark for reopening its external borders: the full vaccination of 80% of the population aged 16 and older. It is expected to reach that point Tuesday.

The news comes just days after Morrison announced plans to allow vaccinated citizens and permanent residents to fly overseas from November for the first time since March 2020.

The severe travel restrictions, which have trapped most Australians at home and kept most foreigners out, have led to the lowest level of immigration since World War II. Australian universities, which rely heavily on fees paid by international students, have been particularly hard hit, and many fear students will go elsewhere if they are not allowed in soon.

While many countries imposed strict lockdowns that shut down large portions of the economies, Australia’s travel restrictions have kept life fairly normal for much of the pandemic — though it is now experiencing shutdowns in the biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the capital Canberra. ADVERTISEMENT

The rules imposed a high emotional burden in a country where half the population was born overseas or has at least one immigrant parent. Families were separated, and some grandparents have been barred from meeting grandchildren in Australia who are now approaching 2 years old.

After lifting restrictions on Australians, Morrison said the next priority would be skilled migrants and international students — before tourists. He did not specify when those groups would be allowed in.

“We will get to international visitors as well, I believe next year,” Morrison said.

The Australian Tourism Export Council, which represents a sector that made 45 billion Australian dollars ($33 billion) a year from international tourists before the pandemic, wants international visitors to return by March.

Australian tourism operators — which have suffered not only from the ban on international tourism but also frequent internal pandemic border restrictions — are frustrated that there aren’t more details of how leisure travel will resume.

“International tourist arrivals have to be part of the plan,” said Daniel Gschwind, chief executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Queensland state’s peak advocacy group. “Even if they’re not the first priority, we’d like to see how this is going to be worked out. There are many businesses that are just hanging on.”

Gschwind that his sector needed to plan for how the COVID-19 risk could be managed, perhaps through rapid testing and self-isolation.

There are a few exceptions to Australia’s travel ban — and tourism has never been accepted as a reason to cross the border. Those who have been able to enter must spend two weeks in hotel quarantine. That would represent a major obstacle if it remains even after tourists are allowed.

Morrison said last week that his government would work toward “complete quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so.” He did not elaborate on the timing.

Australia and New Zealand briefly shared a quarantine-free travel bubble when both countries were essentially free of COVID-19 transmission.

But New Zealand reintroduced quarantine after Australian authorities lost control of an outbreak of the highly-contagious delta variant, which was brought to Sydney in June by a U.S. air crew.

The delta variant has changed the game in many countries that previously were able to largely keep the virus at bay with very strict travel rules, including New Zealand. On Monday, that country’s government acknowledged for the first time that it can no longer completely get rid of the coronavirus.

Australia is continuing to battle outbreaks, while also racing to inoculate its population. Its vaccination rollout was initially slow but has picked up.

Victoria state on Tuesday reported a national record 1,763 new local infections. Australia’s second-most populous state also reported four COVID-19 deaths.

The previous national record of 1,599 infections in 24 hours was set by New South Wales when its outbreak peaked on Sept. 10. Hospitalizations peaked in Australia’s most populous state in mid-September.

New South Wales leads the other states in vaccination rates and Sydney’s airport is expected to be the first to reopen to vaccinated travelers.

Source: https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-lifestyle-business-scott-morrison-travel-0e0dea481cefe0952e19f6315b6955ee

Kabul airport ready for international flights: Afghanistan civil aviation body

Afghanistan‘s civil aviation body said that the Kabul airport is ready for international flights and technical issues have been resolved in recent days, a media report said.

The country’s civil aviation authority announced on Saturday that Kabul airport is completely operational, domestic flights have started at the airport and the facility is ready for international flights to resume normal activity, according to TOLOnews.

In recent days, the airport has received some flights from Qatar, Pakistan and the UAE.

Mohammad Naeem Salehi, a spokesperson for the country’s civil aviation body, said that the department has written to neighbouring countries and the international community asking them to resume flights at the airport.

“Technically, there is no problem ahead of international flights. We are looking to find answers from neighbouring countries about whether they will start flights to Kabul airport or not. Currently, domestic flights are continuing,” TOLOnews quoted Salehi as saying.

Meanwhile, some Afghans — who obtained Iran and Pakistan visas — have complained that the ticket prices have severely surged recently in Kabul.

Locals have complained that either the tickets are not available and if available, the cost is very high.

Some operators of tourism companies have also said that the prices of air travel have increased in Kabul.

Masoud Bina, head of the Afghanistan tourism companies union, said, “Prices for international flights have increased. The price of Pakistan tickets was USD 150 to 200 and now they have climbed to $1,200 dollars.” 

Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/travel/kabul-airport-ready-for-international-flights-afghanistan-civil-aviation-body-101633332499493.html

Indian Tourists For Diwali: What Thailand’s Banking On

Thailand’s hard-hit tourism industry expects Indians to resume travel in large numbers during Diwali, relying on it in the absence of Chinese tourists.

Thailand is looking to attract Indian travelers during the traditional holiday season to boost its tourism-reliant economy that’s been hit hard by the absence of mass holidaymakers from countries including China.

The Thai tourism industry expects Indians to resume travel in large numbers next month during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, said Somsong Sachaphimukh, vice president of the Thai Tourism Council. That should help spark a tourism revival as it coincides with the planned waiver of quarantine for vaccinated visitors from Nov. 1, she said.   

With the outbound Chinese travel not expected to resume anytime soon, Thailand is betting on travelers from other origins to take advantage of its relaxed rules for tourists. Indians, who made up the third-largest group of visitors to Thailand before the pandemic, may head again to Thai beaches for holidays, conferences and destination weddings, Somsong said. 

“If Thailand plans to reopen the country and many of our tourism hubs in November, this year’s Diwali may be a great opportunity,” Somsong told an online briefing on Tuesday. “Indian travelers have a lot of spending power and a lot of potential.”

Thailand is looking to attract Indian travelers during the traditional holiday season to boost its tourism-reliant economy that’s been hit hard by the absence of mass holidaymakers from countries including China.

The Thai tourism industry expects Indians to resume travel in large numbers next month during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, said Somsong Sachaphimukh, vice president of the Thai Tourism Council. That should help spark a tourism revival as it coincides with the planned waiver of quarantine for vaccinated visitors from Nov. 1, she said.   

With the outbound Chinese travel not expected to resume anytime soon, Thailand is betting on travelers from other origins to take advantage of its relaxed rules for tourists. Indians, who made up the third-largest group of visitors to Thailand before the pandemic, may head again to Thai beaches for holidays, conferences and destination weddings, Somsong said. 

“If Thailand plans to reopen the country and many of our tourism hubs in November, this year’s Diwali may be a great opportunity,” Somsong told an online briefing on Tuesday. “Indian travelers have a lot of spending power and a lot of potential.”

Indian travelers may spend between 27,000 baht ($800) and 76,000 baht each during trips to Thailand, and each destination wedding could generate between 10 million to 120 million baht in revenue for the hotel and services industry, Somsong said.

Almost 2 million Indians visited Thailand in 2019, generating 80 billion baht in tourism-related revenue, according to official data. They were the largest group behind Chinese and Malaysians that year when the nation saw almost 40 million tourists generating more than $60 billion in revenue.

“Even though it will be difficult to match the number of visitors and revenue generated by Chinese travelers, Indian tourists can help support Thailand’s tourism industry during this time,” Somsong said. 

Thailand saw foreign tourist arrivals plunge to 73,932 in the first eight months of the year with the nation reeling under the worst Covid-19 outbreak that triggered widespread travel and business curbs. The pandemic has led to 3 million job losses in tourism sector, the council said, while slashing its tourist arrival forecast to 280,000 this year from 500,000 earlier.

Source: https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/thailand-targets-indian-tourists-to-make-up-for-missing-chinese-travelers-2557496

‘Time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism’, says UN chief

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism could result in a more than $4 trillion loss to the global economy, according to a recent report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 

Emergency for developing countries 

Highlighting the fact that in the first months of this year, “international tourist arrivals decreased by a staggering 95 per cent in parts of the world”, Mr. Guterres said that tourism continues to suffer enormously due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“This is a major shock for developed economies, but for developing countries, it is an emergency”, he added.  

“Climate change is also severely affecting many major tourist destinations, particularly Small Island Developing States”, his message added. There, tourism accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all economic activity.  

Tourism for inclusive growth 

Acknowledging that many millions of livelihoods are in jeopardy, Mr. Guterres said that now it is “time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism”. 

“With the right safeguards in place, the tourism sector can provide decent jobs, helping to build resilient, sustainable, gender-equal, inclusive economies and societies that work for everyone”, he added. 

According to the United Nations specialized agency for responsible and sustainable tourism (UNWTO), tourism is a recognized pillar of most the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), particularly Goals 1 (poverty-elimination), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth) and 10 (to reduce inequalities). 

In his message, Mr. Guterres went on to call for targeted action and investment, towards green and sustainable tourism, “with high emitting sectors, including air and sea transport and hospitality, moving towards carbon neutrality”.  

Adding that everybody should have a say in how tourism shapes the future of our societies, the UN chief concluded that “only through inclusive decision-making can we ensure inclusive, sustainable growth, deliver on the promise of the SDGs, and transform tourism to fulfil its potential”. 

The sector could then become “an engine for prosperity, a vehicle for integration, a means to protect our planet and biodiversity, and an agent of cultural understanding between peoples”, said Mr. Guterres. 

Source: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/09/1101382

World Tourism Day 2021: Know its history, significance and theme

World Tourism Day 2021: The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is an United Nations’ agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

UNWTO was established on this day in 1980 to create awareness on how tourism affects social-cultural, political and economic values globally and the role of tourism within the international community.(Unsplash) world news

World Tourism Day is observed every year on September 27 to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Statutes of the Organization in 1970, paving the way for the establishment of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is an United Nations’ agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

History of World Tourism Day

UNWTO was established on this day in 1980 to create awareness on how tourism affects social-cultural, political and economic values globally and the role of tourism within the international community.

Significance of World Tourism Day

On World Tourism Day, UNWTO urges people to highlight the ability of tourism. “By celebrating this day, we state our commitment that, as tourism grows, the benefits that come will be felt at every level of our broad and diverse sector, from the biggest airline to the smallest family business,” Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO’s secretary general, said in his official message.

UN secretary general António Guterres said the tourism sector touches almost every part of the global economy and societies, enabling historically marginalised people and those at risk of being left behind to benefit from development that is local and direct. “On World Tourism Day, we recognise the power and potential of tourism to advance prosperity and drive inclusive sustainable development,” he added.

Theme of World Tourism Day 2021

This year the theme of World Tourism Day is ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth’. It aims to help people associated with the tourism sector in every possible way. UNWTO has urged businesses, tourists, UN agencies, member states and non-members to “celebrate tourism’s unique ability to ensure that nobody is left behind as the world begins to open up again and look to the future”.

Celebrating World Tourism Day

Keeping World Tourism Day in mind and to celebrate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Centre’s initiative to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence, the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board is organising various events and activities in the state to promote state tourism and make people aware of the state’s rich history, traditions, cultural and national heritage, possibilities, tourism importance etc. and to enhance their tourism knowledge, news agency PTI reported.

Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/world-tourism-day-2021-know-its-history-significance-and-theme-101632699142849.html

South Asia eyes tourism revival with eased restrictions

(AFP) – Nepal has restarted visas on arrival for vaccinated tourists as South Asian nations attempt to revive tourism businesses devastated after 18 months of the pandemic.

A near travel shutdown has been in place in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka for more than a year as successive waves of coronavirus took a deadly toll.

Nepal reopened to tourists and scrapped quarantine requirements for vaccinated foreigners on Thursday and its neighbours are expected to quickly follow as they seek to bolster linchpin industries in their economies.

“The resumption of on-arrival visas is aimed at reopening the tourism sector which is one of the mainstays of Nepal‘s economy,” Tourism Ministry spokesman Tara Nath Adhikari told AFP.

All visitors must still take a pandemic test on arrival and unvaccinated travellers have to quarantine for 10 days.

The decision came just as monsoon clouds cleared for the autumn trekking season, and many are hopeful it will help drive up the arrivals.

“So many have lost jobs and livelihoods. This decision is crucial for all of us and we are hopeful that at least some visitors will return,” said Nabin Trital of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal.

Neighbouring India is soon to announce that it will give away 500,000 free tourist visas as it also starts to reopen after more than a year, officials told AFP.

The country had more than 12.5 million tourists in 2019 but lost hundreds of millions of dollars after the shutters came down in March last year.

New Delhi is negotiating with international airlines to get scheduled flights resumed from main markets in North America and Europe, the officials said.

Bhutan recently let in its first foreign tourist, an American who spent three weeks in quarantine.

The country has imposed draconian restrictions to minimise the impact of the pandemic, recording only three coronavirus deaths in the population of 700,000.

Vaccinated tourists began entering Sri Lanka in July, without having to quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19 on arrival.

South Asia is highly dependent on tourism, which accounted for some 47 million jobs in 2019, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

But the pandemic left beaches and mountains deserted, from Everest to the Indian Ocean, and the fall in tourism played a major role in recessions seen by most of the countries last year.

Source: http://www.seychellesnewsagency.com/articles/15546/South+Asia+eyes+tourism+revival+with+eased+restrictions