The Asia Pacific region is predicted to lose its title of ‘top travel area’ by the end of this year if countries within the region continue to uphold COVID border policies.
This new analysis by the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) has predicted a surge in travel through Europe as it overtakes the Asia Pacific travel sector.
Analysis indicated that aviation in the Asian Pacific area is still 45 per cent lower than it was before the pandemic, and this is despite the region formerly making up more than a third of all international passenger travel.
Meanwhile the analysis states that 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels have been reached in terms of European air travel, even in the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
While a staggering 3.38 billion people travelled through airports in the Asia Pacific region in 2019, the Airports Council International (ACI) Asia-Pacific, an industry group that represents airports in the area, predicts that by the end of this year, 1.84 billion people would have gone through the region’s travel hubs.
A survey by the ACI Asia-Pacific and CAPA indicated that the “zero-Covid” border policy of China and the gradual easing of travel restrictions in Japan were major contributors to this delayed recovery.
Furthermore CAPA predicts that the Asia Pacific region won’t fully resume its pre-pandemic travel levels until the end of 2023 or early 2024.
To promote travel recovery in the region, CAPA has called for the “harmonisation of international travel rules,” and “political commitments towards openness and freedom of movement,” as well as a continuing vaccination campaign.
Bringing the scope closer to home, following COVID-19, most Pacific Island countries have opened up their borders this year for international travel.
While a few have been daring to drop all COVID restrictions for travel, the majority of these countries have approached the issue guardedly.
Recently, Samoa, Tahiti , Cook Islands, PNG, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Australia have announced the full reopening of their borders without any COVID pre-existing conditions.
On the other hand, countries like Fiji, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and the Solomon Islands have opted otherwise.
Of the other countries that plan to lift their borders based on the development of the virus globally and within their localities, Fiji has decided to take a decisive stance on the issue, planning to open up travel once it achieved 80 per cent of its booster herd immunity.
In a statement Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Service’s Permanent Secretary, Dr James Fong says, “While we have maintained a number of public health mandates and measures related to vaccination and incoming travel, we envision that the more people get vaccinated with the booster doses, the better the level of protection, and the safer it will become to remove the remaining public health measures further”.
“For this to happen, the Ministry is currently targeting 80% booster coverage for those over 18 years of age,” he said.
“We are in the process of reviewing our public health measures given the current persistent favourable trends in case numbers and severe outcomes.”