As Asia’s ‘travel bubbles’ fail to materialize, travelers face prospect of long winter at home

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Photo: CNN

With the end of the year approaching, travelers holding onto hope they may still get to enjoy a quick winter escape in Asia are facing some hard truths right now.

Christmas on the beach in Phuket? Highly unlikely — unless you’re willing to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks first.
Lunar New Year in Bali next February? Don’t book those flights just yet.
The list of countries in the region that are off limits to most leisure travel remains long and, according to the experts, is likely to remain that way for some time yet.
In early May, optimism was high that once governments were able to contain their Covid-19 outbreaks they would begin opening up to other nations that too had a handle on their case numbers.
Dubbed “travel bubbles,” the concept was first raised by Australia and New Zealand, then quickly picked up by other nations as a possible way to get international travelers flying again. This would give tourism-dependent economies a chance to recoup the millions of dollars in losses racked up this year.
For a number of reasons, those bubbles — also called air corridors — have yet to materialize in Asia.
In what’s been referred to as a twisted game of “Whack-a-Mole,” the virus continues to rear its invisible head in fresh waves, leading most governments to shy away from actually moving beyond the discussion phase.
“Travel bubbles are extremely complex to implement, much greater than what people may have thought originally,” says Mario Hardy, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
“Each respective destination needs to have well tested and tried protocols and the understanding that visitors from each country will respect them. They also need to ensure that they have a robust health care system to handle any potential resurgences of cases as well as good contact tracing capabilities.”
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