Demand for travel to Southeast Asia sees rising trend as borders reopen

22 April, 2022

Almost all countries across Southeast Asia have now started to remove their travel restrictions and are reopening their borders to international arrivals. This marks an important step in the recovery process and in particular rejuvenating economies that rely on visitor expenditure. Data from Travelport for 1Q 2022 clearly shows the easing of restrictions is influencing international demand for travel to Southeast Asia.

International flight bookings to Southeast Asia in 1Q 2022 have increased and have showed upward trajectory through the quarter. The Philippines is identified as the most advanced achieving 42% of its international bookings in the first quarter of 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philippines and Thailand among earliest countries in Southeast Asia to reopen borders

The Philippines and Thailand were among the earliest countries in Southeast Asia to reopen their borders, and travellers were already planning visits over the first three months of 2022. In the first quarter of 2022, the two countries represent over half (51%) of all international flight bookings to the region, according to Travelport's booking data.

On 28-Jan-2022, the Philippines announced its plans to fully reopen to vaccinated travellers from 10-Feb-2022. Within a week of the announcement, Travelport says international flight bookings to the country rose by +114%. One month after the announcement on 28-Feb-2022, the country saw a +294% increase in daily flight bookings.

Thailand first allowed foreigners to enter the country on 01-Feb-2022 with the introduction of its Test & Go programme which required tourists to have a negative PCR test for entry, and a subsequent antigen test on the fifth day of travel. In the 24 hours following that announcement, international flight bookings to Thailand grew by +37%, according to Travelport.

On 07-Mar-2022, the Thai government further revised the measures, dropping the testing requirements on the fifth day. With that change, international flight bookings grew +128% compared to booking on first announcement.

Opening the door to international arrivals

For a long time, international travel across and into Southeast Asia has been restricted by strict government policies to combat COVID-19 spread. But, like many other areas of the world, enhanced control, increased vaccinations rates and better understanding has enabled these barriers to be removed.

Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand are all open to fully vaccinated arrivals; Singapore is open to tourists from selected countries via vaccinated travel lanes or hotel quarantine scheme; Laos has reopened to international arrivals from selected countries; while Vietnam and Myanmar opened to international arrivals from Mar-2022 and Apr-2022, respectively.

Brunei remains the exception, for now

Entry to Brunei remains restricted and land and sea borders are currently closed. However, from Apr-2022, non-essential travel has been permitted to and from Travel Green list countries; Australia, Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia (air travel only), New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Upon arriving in Brunei, travellers from these Travel Green List countries must take an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) (lateral flow) and a COVID-19 RT PCR test, and self-isolate until rhey have received a negative result. They must take an additional (self-administered) ART on Day 2 and Day 3 and upload the results on the BruHealth App (the day of arrival is considered Day 1). Travellers from countries not listed under the Travel Green list must take an ART upon arrival and then self-isolate.

Australia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the UK and US main inbound markets

The top five countries travelling to Southeast Asia are the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, according to the Travelport data. Solo travellers made up almost half (44%) of international flight bookings for the first quarter of 2022 to date, by far the largest traveller segment.

These are probably comprised of returning business travellers, flexible tourists whose bags are packed the moment borders reopen, and Southeast Asian expats eager to return home without enduring a once mandatory quarantine.

Manila, Singapore and Bangkok the hotspots for region's arrivals

According to Travelport's booking data, the top ten destinations in Southeast Asia for international travellers to visit in 2022, based on its 1Q 2022 data are: Manila (Philippines); Singapore (Singapore); Bangkok (Thailand); Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam); Jakarta (Indonesia); Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia); Hanoi (Vietnam); Phuket (Thailand); Angeles/Mabalacat (Philippines).