Thinking of going to Southeast Asia? Here’s what to expect.


Before the pandemic, Southeast Asia was one of the world’s fastest growing regions for international tourism, with a record 139 million visitors in 2019, a jump of around 8% from to 2018, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. The emerald waters of Halong Bay in Vietnam were crowded with hundreds of cruise ships, the rooftop bars of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia were teeming with revelers and walking the streets of Thai islands like Phuket meant enduring crowds elbow to neck. elbow. Tourist attractions in the region were crowded with package tours from China, the world’s biggest source of outbound tourism for the past decade. According to UNWTO, around 150 million Chinese travelers spent $277 billion in 2018 alone.

Countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Cambodia were among the favorite destinations for Chinese tourists. But as China’s coronavirus outbreak morphed into a global pandemic in early 2020, places in the region that relied on foreign visitors were deserted. Last year, foreign arrivals to Southeast Asia fell to 3.3 million, about 2% of the record number in 2019.

This year, with the gradual revival of international tourism, visitors will encounter a series of constraints as well as rewards, according to tourists and travel agencies in the region.

Mr Lamberty and Ms Laird spent 16 holidays in Phuket before the pandemic. They usually strolled the island – renowned for its tropical beaches, fiery cuisine, hedonistic nightlife – and enjoyed visiting temples and taking Thai cooking classes. This time they decided to visit friends and relax at their beachfront hotel, Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket, on the Andaman Sea. They were sad to see shops had closed in a nearby mall, now a Covid testing site.

“You have a memory of what happened before and what happened here, but everyone has to compromise,” Ms Laird said. “Be brave to travel and go for it; the price is right to be here.

Travelers seeking this price should be prepared to undergo virus testing and even quarantines, and purchase health and travel insurance before arrival. Other suggestions: Be prepared to download government travel apps, upload vaccinations and travel documents, and recognize that testing positive for the virus could send you into quarantine or lead to a missed flight. Don’t be surprised if service at hotels, restaurants and tour operators is spotty or understaffed – or if government rules suddenly change while you’re on vacation.


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