The hospitality industry in the ASEAN region may recover in 2022 with aggressive vaccination, allowing for more businesses such as travel and tourism, lodging, food and beverage, and recreation to re-open.
AirAsia Malaysia chief executive officer (CEO) Riad Asmat believes a full recovery in travel demand is possible by the end of 2022.
With the tourism industry contributing over 15 per cent of Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), vaccines are key for protection and will play a strong role in supporting tourism and the economy to get back on its feet, he said.
“We foresee a gradual travel and tourism recovery by the end of 2021 and through 2022 thanks to the accelerated vaccine rollout across our key markets in ASEAN. Travel demand will rebound. By the end of next year we expect to be back to pre-Covid levels due to huge pent-up demand for travel,” said Riad.
The tourism industry contributed 14.3 per cent of the ASEAN’s GDP and 13.7 per cent of total employment in the region.
In 2020, however, international tourist arrivals plummeted 80.5 per cent and suffered the loss of 75.8 per cent of tourism receipts.
Intra-ASEAN travel that made up 36 per cent of tourism arrivals in ASEAN before the pandemic with over 51 million visitor arrivals in 2019 might be the first tourism segment to be revived once herd immunity is achieved in ASEAN, said CARI ASEAN Research and Advocacy (CARI) executive director Jukhee Hong.
Hong said the development of the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework should be concluded soon to facilitate essential business travels among ASEAN as ASEAN ramps up vaccination efforts.
Riad and Hong were speaking during a webinar hosted by CARI, the ASEAN Business Club, ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC), and ASEAN-BAC Malaysia, with the topic ASEAN Tourism Webinar 2021: Outlook and Pathways to recovery.
It featured a keynote presentation by H.E. Sandiaga Uno, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Indonesia; William Heinecke, founder and chairman of Minor International PCL, Yanty Rahman, ASEAN-BAC chair 2021, and Riad.
The session was moderated by CARI chairman Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid.
Munir said the speakers concurred that innovation and collaboration are needed to revive ASEAN’s tourism industry.
He said intelligent within-border risk management and mutually agreed standards will pave way for regional recovery.
“Achieving economic recovery, particularly in the tourism sector, in the covid world is like climbing up a greasy pole. No sooner have you moved up than you slip back. Countries that have been trying to reopen the tourism sector are suffering setbacks from the resurgence or new waves of the virus,” he said.
Munir said, apart from intelligent risk management within borders, concurrently mutually agreed standards have to be agreed upon if the tourism industry and other forms of travel are not to remain frozen.
“Such travel bubbles can start between or among tourist destinations in the region and the recovery really has to get going as the virus is not going away any time soon,” he said.
For Heinecke, innovation and regional collaboration are key to rebuild the hospitality and tourism industries.
“Navigating this pandemic has been like sailing into a hurricane, never knowing if or when the winds will die down. At Minor, we are no longer trying to put things back to where they were. Instead, we are trying to build, create and imagine the new ways of business beyond Covid,” he said.