NEWS Round-Up June 1-June 8

ASEAN, borders, lockdown, post-COVID



The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) highlighted last week that there has been a slight easing of world travel restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19.

The UN agency said in a news release that it has been monitoring 217 international tourist destinations, and by May 18, seven of them have eased travel restrictions for international tourism purposes, while others “are engaged in significant discussions about the re-opening of borders.”

Seventy-five percent of the destinations continued to have closed borders for international tourists, UNWTO added. Many countries however plan to reopen their borders by the end of June.

The organization also stressed the importance of international tourism in promoting sustainable economic growth.

“The timely and responsible easing of travel restrictions will help ensure the many social and economic benefits that tourism guarantees will return in a sustainable way. This will contribute to the livelihoods of many millions of people around the world,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.

“The sector is a driver of sustainable development and a pillar of economies. UNWTO stresses the need for vigilance, responsibility and international cooperation as the world slowly opens up again,” he added.



Cambodia will see a huge loss in revenue generated from tourism sector of around US$3 billion this year due to the pandemic spread, according to the Minister of Tourism.

Minister Thong Khon said during the launch of additional safety measures for tourism-based business that the global virus has hit the tourism sector the hardest around the world and Cambodia will see it’s foreign and local visitors decline by about 70 percent and 50 percent respectively this year, causing the country to lose $3billion.

During the first four month, Cambodia welcomed 1.16 million foreign visitors, a decline of 52 percent compared with the same period last year, according to Minister. The ministry of Tourism this week has introduced additional safety measures for hotels and guesthouses, restaurants and transportation to contain the pandemic spread after signs of that tourism activity is rebounding.

On May 20, Cambodia lifted its travel ban on foreign travelers from the United States, Iran as well as Italy, Germany, Spain and France. However, strict entry conditions apply such as providing a health certificate of non contamination to COVID-19 issued by competent health authorities of their country within 72 hours, a proof of an insurance policy that shows minimum medical coverage during their intended stay in Cambodia in the amount not less than 50,000 U.S. dollars and a compulsory quarantine of 14 days for anyone arriving.




Lao Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported 22 new confirmed cases of dengue fever in Laos, bringing the total number of infections to 1,586. The highest number of dengue patients were reported in Lao capital Vientiane at 370 with two deaths, while 235 cases were reported in Vientiane province, and 209 cases were reported in Attapeu province.

Last week, 1,586 people had been diagnosed with dengue fever and four deaths were recorded, according to the Center of Information and Education for Health under the Lao Ministry of Health.

Lao health authorities urged people to clear potential mosquito breeding sites around their homes and workplaces to help control the spread of dengue fever. Meanwhile, improvement of the diagnosis and treatment of dengue at hospitals and dispensaries is necessary to prevent unavoidable deaths.

According to the World Health Organization, dengue is one of the fastest emerging infections and is currently the most rapidly spreading viral disease known, with Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore also seeing high incidence. The number of cases in the Western Pacific Region has more than doubled over the past 10 years.

(Source: Xinhua)




Malaysia Prime Minister announced the appointment of Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin as Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) new chairman. Wan Zulkiflee crisis management experience in the oil and gas industry will stand him in good stead in mending the ailing airline according to expert. Wan Zulkiflee will be retiring from Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) on June 30 to assume the position of chairman of MAB, effective July 1.

Aviation principal consultant Jaafar Zamhari said although Wan Zulkiflee comes from a different background, he would be able to assail MAB to greater heights despite the gloomy aviation industry in the challenging economic environment aggravated by COVID-19, which has caused disruption in the global supply chain. “There will be a two-phase mission for him. Firstly, managing the crisis that will take him around two years — the (same) way he used to do in the oil and gas landscape.

“Secondly, learning (about) the aviation and airline industry, (which) will be easy for him. In the learning process, he can steer MAB in the right direction. He has the aviation industry knowledge as well, coming from Petronas, our major aviation fuel supplier,” he told Bernama..

Jaafar said the government should let Wan Zulkiflee run MAB on purely on commercial and business considerations. “Wan Zulkiflee is a visionary leader. The change (in landscape) from oil and gas to aviation will not be a problem (to him). He can do a lot to transform MAB. Give him all the freedom to steer the airline(and) I guarantee MAB will succeed,” he added.

(Source: Bernama)




As Thailand records very few COVID-19 cases, the Kingdom thinks of reopening its borders. But the government’s move to allow again foreign travellers is slow, extremely slow. Last week, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha plans now to create so-called “travel bubbles” through bilateral agreements designed to keep the coronavirus in check when Thailand’s borders are reopened.

“Once the situation improves, we’ll allow travel between countries that we have an agreement with,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared during his last week briefing. Among the likely countries to benefit from the measure, are Australia, China including Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea or Taiwan. These countries showed few or no COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Borders to Thailand are currently closed and all international flights suspended until June 30. Thai Airways International already announced to reopen a handful of flights to Europe from the middle of July while Thai AirAsia X announced to reopen its flights to Japan in August.

The country starts meanwhile to unlock. After the shopping malls, restaurants and most individual shops, Museum Siam reopened on May 28 followed on Sunday by the Grand Palace, a strong symbol…



The disastrous financial state of national carrier Thai Airways International will force the government to further intervene to support the carrier. According to local newspapers, Airbus recently announced that it would like to recover the debt that Thai Airways International owns to the European aircraft manufacturer for airplanes leased to the national carrier. Currently, 31 of TG aircraft are on financing leases and another 39 are on operating leases at various companies.

Thailand national flag carrier is looking now for government support to negotiate with foreign creditors to let the airline’s aircraft flying without having them impounded. The airline will renegotiate financial dealings with other enterprises such as the Petroleum Authority of Thailand and Airports of Thailand. The airline also wants the government to examine its time slots in order to boost its competitiveness and that of its alliance airlines, according to the director-general, who is also secretary of the government committee formed to follow up on the airline’s rehabilitation plan. Thai Airways International is due to restart international flights from July.




The Vietnamese government has announced that it will reopen the paradise tourism island of Phu Quoc from July 1st, allowing again citizens from countries which managed to control the pandemic. Vietnam Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Trinh Thi Thuy said the tourism ministry has been working on a pilot plan to bring international tourists to select islands, Phu Quoc being the most important of them. The trial will be monitored by the government to see if more destinations could then be reopened. Vietnam had no death from COVID-19 with only 329 recorded cases.

Thuy said though the island is relatively isolated from the mainland, there are people living there and domestic tourists visit them, and so the risks of community transmission must be taken into account while allowing international visitors back. “Tougher measures should be taken to prevent another outbreak of COVID-19.”

“We are working with the Health Ministry to develop a set of criteria to ensure safety for international visitors. The tourism industry only wants to receive visitors from countries where the disease has been controlled,” Thuy added.

The tourism ministry is set to work with relevant ministries and agencies on air routes, visa issuance and lifting of travel restrictions for tourists from several countries and regions that have managed to control the pandemic. Phu Quoc received over five million visitors last year, including 541,600 foreigners.