NEWS Round-Up April 21-April 25

ASEAN, coronavirus, borders, lockdown, air transport, PATA, data

(Photo: Institut Pasteur)


  • Updated forecasts from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) see a contraction of 32% year-on-year for international visitor arrivals into and across Asia Pacific in 2020. Taking into account the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of arrivals is now expected to reduce to fewer than 500 million this year. This number would take back the region’s volume of visitors to its level of the year 2012. However, growth is expected to resume in 2021, returning to forecast levels by 2023. Much of course, depends on how quickly and completely the COVID-19 pandemic is contained and controlled. A more optimistic scenario suggests arrivals still falling in 2020 but by 16% year-on-year while a pessimistic narrative predicts a reduction of approximately 44%.
  • The impacts are expected to be most severe in Asia, especially Northeast Asia, which is now predicted to lose almost 51% of its visitor volume between 2019 and 2020 (most likely scenario), followed by South Asia with a reduction of 31%, and then Southeast Asia with a 22% drop in visitor arrivals. West Asia is projected to lose almost six percent in visitor arrivals, followed by the Pacific with a projected contraction of 18%, and the Americas with a loss of a little under 12%. Southeast Asia is likely to reach again its level of 2019 in 2021 according to PATA forecasts.
  • The same is essentially true for visitor receipts as well as they are expected to drop by 27% between 2019 and 2020 under the most likely scenario, reducing to US$594 billion, significantly below the original 2020 forecast of US$811 billion. Asia is expected to lose more than US$170 billion (-36%), with Northeast Asia predicted to lose more than US$123 billion (-48%) under this most likely scenario, followed by South Asia with a US$13.3 billion loss (-33%) and Southeast Asia with a US$34.6 billion shortfall (-20%).


  • Ramadan brought a halt to domestic transportation throughout Indonesia’s archipelago. The measure was taken by the Transportation Ministry to restrict the traditional exodus (mudik) for Indonesians who go back home during the fasting month and the Idul Fitri celebration. Domestic flights but also train, bus and boat connections are all suspended, except for vehicles carrying leaders of state institutions, police and military vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks, hearses and vehicles transporting logistical supplies, staple goods and medicines. International flights are however maintained but they are currently only a handful of daily connections. The ban started on Friday, April 24 and will last until June 1st. The ministry’s land transportation director general Budi Setiyadi declared to local media that toll, national and provincial roads would remain open but checkpoints would be set up at several locations, guarded by police and military personnel.
  • Bali is experienced a rapid decrease in foreign tourists arrivals. After experiencing a growth of 11% in January, Indonesia’s largest tourism destination recorded a decrease of 18% in February following the suspension of flights from China. The decline accelerated in March with foreign arrivals down by 32.32% while in April, foreign tourist arrivals reached a new low with a decline of 93.24%.  Talking online to media, Bali Deputy Governor Tjokorda Oka Sukawati said Bali was one the region’s hardest hit by the pandemic in Indonesia, as around 60% of its gross regional product (PDRB) comes from tourism. Tourism collapse has a multiple ripple effect. The agricultural sector on the island is also heavily affected as most of its customers are local hotels with their 140,000 rooms. Potential losses experienced by the tourism and meeting, incentives, conferencing and exhibition (MICE) sectors in Bali are estimated to exceed IDR9 billion (US$628,367).


  • Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA) has been approached by Malaysia Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) to look for hotels located near the country’s air, land and sea entry points in view of setting up quarantine centres. Already 23 budget hotels are enlisted as quarantine centres and can accordingly receive guests who have been screened by the Health Ministry and classified as ‘green’ patients who just need to be quarantined. This could help filling up some 4,500 hotel rooms from a total of 46,000 budget hotel rooms throughout Malaysia.
  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended until May 15 a lockdown in the capital Manila, his spokesman said on Friday, stretching to eight weeks one of the world’s strictest community quarantines to curb coronavirus infections. The measures will be expanded to other regions with big outbreaks but modified in lower-risk areas, which would see a partial resumption of work, transport and commerce. Manila, a heavily congested city of at least 13 million people and millions more informal settlers, accounts for more than two-thirds of the country’s 6,981 infections and 462 deaths. The Philippines introduced curbs on immigration, travel, commerce, gatherings on March 12, five days after the first case of domestic transmission, and expanded them on March 16. It is closed to all except repatriated Filipinos. (Source: Reuters)


  • In an updated notice on its website, Singapore Airlines management just announced that SIA and SilkAir will “continue to adjust its services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak until the end of June. This means that SIA and its affiliate will continue to fly a reduced timetable representing only 4% of its normal capacity. Only 10 aircraft of a 200-aircraft fleet will continue to be in service. SIA will fly to just 15 cities, including London, Los Angeles and Seoul but also Bangkok or Jakarta. All flights are subject to regulatory approvals, said the airline. Customers whose flights were cancelled will retain the full value of the unused portion of their tickets as flight credits, said the notice. They will also be awarded bonus flight credits when rebooking.


  • The government will step in to save again Thai Airways International, which is on the brink of bankruptcy. A decision is due next Wednesday in a meeting of the State Enterprise Policy Commission, with the possibility of a shareholder restructuring to help the national carrier stay afloat. The meeting will be chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who will decide about the scope of the bail-out. However, it seems that the government is against any privatisation of the carrier. The rehabilitation plan would potentially ask the Government Savings Bank and the Vayupak fund, with state-owned Krung Thai Bank as its major shareholder, to acquire additional shares in Thailand national carrier. The board of directors of Thai Airways International is likely to be replaced as it is blamed by the government to have accumulated losses of THB13.5 billion over the past year.