Vaccine rollouts will be a time-consuming process both regionally and across the globe but some actions can be taken now to make them more effective in opening up tourism and travel, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said. That could speed the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic which the region desperately needs, said Matthias Helble and Won Hee Cho of ADB’s Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department.
Groups in Asia and the Pacific should work together to develop regional best practices and protocols. A unified stand and stringent guidelines on how to implement the digital vaccine passes and other Covid-19-related travel measures will contribute significantly towards the success of the tourism recovery plan. It will also ease international business travel which enables faster recovery of international economic cooperation, said Helble and Cho in a blogpost.
In recent months, another form of international travel has emerged: travel bubbles between places that are largely Covid-19 free. This includes bubbles for Australia-New Zealand, Singapore-Hong Kong, Singapore-Malaysia, and Singapore-Australia. Governments need to coordinate how to integrate these bubbles with vaccine passes, said the economists.
Besides, contact tracing should be made possible across borders. To reach this objective, they said, governments must adopt digital technologies that not only accurately track the movement of people and meet data security and privacy standards, but that also allows an interface of exchange across countries. As the vaccination programs are expected to take years to finish, entry into a country should continue to be possible for unvaccinated travellers. To facilitate travel, quarantine protocols should be harmonized across the region.
For example, the testing required before the trip and during the quarantine varies widely across the region. Common standards will facilitate the planning of a trip and provide predictability for all actors in the sector. Even though advances in vaccination in the region are unequal, said the ADB economists, Asia needs to urgently come together to develop a common vaccine protocol for cross-border travel. A common travel pass should be easy to use, fraud-resistant, and available digitally.
Existing regional integration efforts like trade deals and technical agreements can offer a platform for countries to negotiate. Apart from easing travel substantially, offering a common vaccine passport provides people with an additional incentive to become vaccinated. The economists said international travel is not only important for the tourism sector but international business and cooperation in general.