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Asia Minute: Regional tourism recovery still depends on COVID conditions

coronavirus China
Andy Wong/AP
An airport security guard wearing a face shield and mask stands on duty at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. China is easing its tight restrictions on visas after it largely suspended issuing them to foreign students and others more than two years ago at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

There's been a worldwide relationship between the state of the coronavirus and the tourism business. That's been true in Hawaiʻi since the pandemic began — and it's continuing in the Asia-Pacific.

South Korea has been easing its rules for COVID testing. After a spike in cases in late August, numbers have been falling — and so have restrictions. Earlier this month, the government dropped the requirement for pre-travel testing.

Vietnam stopped its pre-arrival testing requirement in May — and by August had seen both a fall in case numbers and an increase in arrivals.

Thailand has dropped its testing requirement for arrivals. And the country is starting to see some movement in its travel numbers.

From January through the middle of August, Thailand’s government reported a total of nearly 4 million tourists. That number has already passed 1 million in September alone.

On Monday, a Thai government spokesperson said expectations are that by next year, tourism will reach 80% of its pre-pandemic level.

At the other end of the scale, China has remained virtually closed to foreign nationals since the outset of the pandemic — except for those with certain work visas, and in recent months, some foreign students.

But Reuters reports that on Monday, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued a draft rule saying travel groups organized by tour agencies near the border can enter and exit the country “flexibly.”

More specifics are expected soon.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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