Home COVID-19 Flexible quarantine options should complement vaccine rollouts across Asia

Flexible quarantine options should complement vaccine rollouts across Asia

John Brown
Global rollout of vaccines has improved 2021’s travel outlook, but other measures will play a key role in recovery, particularly in Asia
CEO of Agoda
A lady police standing in attention wearing a face mask a departure hall of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok

Confidence in the vaccine rollouts, discussions around COVID-19 passports and alternative state quarantine announcements have triggered an increase in international travel searches. The travel and tourism industry is an essential pillar in Asia-Pacific, making up 10% of its GDP in 2019.

Agoda’s search data highlights green shoots of recovery and a growing optimism by travellers across Asia that international travel will start to return, with Australia, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia witnessing an increase in the number of international destinations in their top 30 searches in March 2021 compared to December 2020. Travellers from these markets are joining China, Taiwan and Singapore in their optimism for the resumption of international travel. Only Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand continued to see zero international destinations in their top 30 searches in both December 2020 and March 2021. However, interestingly, Thailand and the Philippines both feature strongly as destinations, with Bangkok securing a spot in six out of 11 origin markets’ top 30 search lists.

Alongside these growing searches, Agoda’s data shows booking patterns start to normalise and return to pre-COVID trends, as behaviour indicators such as lead times and prices—both of which reduced heavily in the spring and summer of 2020—dip less sharply.

Vaccine rollouts alone not the answer

There are definitely reasons for the travel industry in Asia to feel optimistic. Vaccines will be critical to full recovery, but initiatives like government subsidy programmes, such as Together in Thailand or GoTo Japan have been successful in harnessing the demand for travel and supporting domestic accommodation providers. Agoda’s search data shows that travellers are looking to resume international travel, buoyed by the implementation of the vaccine rollout, but there is more to do.

With more markets exploring travel corridors, alternative state quarantine accommodation provides a solution to help resume international travel by enabling travellers to choose a quarantine property that best suits their needs.

The vaccine rollout in Asia is commencing, but the pace across the region will vary, with some markets such as Singapore being fully vaccinated this year and others like Japan, Thailand and Vietnam looking more likely in 2022. So, these heavily tourism-dependent economies need to consider how to accelerate the return to normalcy. Governments will need to innovate how they approach reopening of their borders, balancing the very real need for the safety of their own citizens, and visitors alike, with the economic reality.

For the foreseeable future, quarantine remains a stumbling block to international travel, so the provision of alternative state quarantine, as launched in Thailand and Hong Kong, might prove to be a sensible solution in line with a vaccine programme. Corporate technology partners who move fast, will be able to provide governments with support to manage the complex variables that markets face.

Alternative state quarantine (ASQ) solutions

With travellers raring to go, now more than ever, public-private collaboration is integral as the world works towards a sustainable recovery of the travel and tourism industry. International travel will take on a new reality with integrated measures to facilitate safe and responsible international travel, ranging from rapid testing, health certificates, COVID-19 vaccine passports and more. Quarantine stays is another key measure with the likes of the Thailand and Hong Kong governments exploring ways for travellers to embrace quarantine stays, and working closely with private companies to assist with technology solutions.

The vaccine rollout in Asia is commencing, but the pace across the region will vary, with some markets such as Singapore being fully vaccinated this year and others like Japan, Thailand and Vietnam looking more likely in 2022.

As the first market to implement ASQ, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and Department of Health Service Support partnered with Agoda to leverage the travel platform’s tech solutions enabling returning Thai nationals and residents to choose their preferred accommodation directly on the travel platform. With Thailand announcing the reopening of borders to international tourists this July, Agoda’s ASQ platform will offer travellers flexibility in terms of types of accommodation and other variables such as duration of stay.

Changes on the horizon

We are seeing rays of hope as markets announce the reopening of borders through initiatives like the Taiwan-Palau or potential Australia-Singapore travel bubbles. With more markets exploring travel corridors, alternative state quarantine accommodation provides a solution to help resume international travel by enabling travellers to choose a quarantine property that best suits their needs. Travel companies will have to work closely with local governments and their accommodation partners to identify tech-enabled solutions to spur on and support the revival of local tourism economies.

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CEO of Agoda

John Brown is the chief executive officer of Agoda, part of Booking Holdings (Nasdaq: BKNG) and headquartered in Singapore. John joined Agoda in 2010 and during his tenure has been responsible for product, marketing and branding, customer experience, partner services, and market development teams, leading the company through a period of sustained global growth. Previously, John was a Principal at Boston Consulting Group in Boston and Bangkok. He was also an economic advisor to the Afghan Minister of Commerce and Industry in Kabul and served three years in the Peace Corps as an enterprise development advisor.

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