Many tourists from Southeast Asia are not allowed to travel to the European Union, which does not recognize many of their vaccination certificates, including Chinese-made Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines.
Currently, the European Union (EU) only recognizes COVID-19 passport certificates issued by three Southeast Asian countries, despite an increase in foreign travel from the region as pandemic restrictions are lifted. .
Malaysian certificates have been recognized since early April 2022, Thailand’s since December 2021, and Singapore’s since November last year. Thailand and Malaysia joined the EU COVID Digital Certificate when it was extended to 22 non-EU countries in February.
“Vaccine recognition has been a big deal,” Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst and founder of Singapore-based company Sobie Aviation, told DW. “It’s disappointing to see how slowly it has progressed, considering all the industry efforts that started well over a year ago.”
Recognition of Malaysia’s COVID passport by the EU, in particular, was “very slow” considering that it has issued digital vaccination certificates since the very beginning of its vaccination campaign, in 2021, and uses strong security to their system, said Hannah Pearson, founding partner of Kuala Lumpur-based tourism consultancy Pear Anderson, in an interview with DW.
However, with regard to countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam, it is not surprising that recognition has been slow, he added. Manila was slow to get its vaccine passport scheme up and running last year, and had a lot of trouble when it was launched. Vietnam only started issuing its own digital vaccination certificates last month.
The impact of that is hard to gauge. In 2019, citizens of six Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam – spent nearly $90 billion on international tourism, about a third of what US citizens spent. Chinese in that year, according to a recent article by Melinda Martinus of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
But international travel spending by tourists from those six Southeast Asian countries fell to $24.8 billion in 2020, before rising to about $38 billion in 2021. The Economist Intelligence Unit recently indicated that it will not recover to pre-2020 levels. the pandemic until 2024.
However, outbound travel from Southeast Asia has started to pick up “pretty well,” according to Sobie. This is “an indication of pent-up demand after two years in which there was virtually no international travel to, from or within Southeast Asia,” the analyst said. He considers that the rate of recovery of exits has so far been faster than that of entries.
Tourists from Southeast Asia can enter some European states even if their vaccination passports are not recognized by the EU. The entry requirements to the different EU states are usually simpler and many of them do not require passports with vaccinations, according to analysts.
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