BANGKOK, Nov 16 — The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) member economies are ramping up efforts to revitalise cross-border travel by tackling the lingering uncertainties faced by travellers as the Covid-19 pandemic enters its third year.
Through a report, “Covid-19 and Cross-Border Mobility in the Apec Region: Addressing Uncertainties at the Border”, Apec’s Safe Passage Taskforce put forward recommendations to drive the forum’s work on passenger movements in the region, looking into issues at and behind the border that can be addressed to facilitate travel and tourism in the region.
The report, developed by the Apec Policy Support Unit, said the Covid-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on cross-border mobility throughout the world.
“Apec region implemented some of the most stringent cross-border travel restrictions in the world, and the impact of these measures have been massive and protracted. Apec Policy Support Unit study estimates the economic costs of the resulting loss in cross-border mobility at US$1.2 trillion in 2020.
“While international travel has started to recover since 2020, as of April 2022 international visitor arrivals in Apec was only one-third of the levels seen in January 2020. Border restrictions have had a devastating impact on travel and tourism throughout the world, with the Apec region particularly affected.
“International tourist arrivals to Apec economies fell by 79.1 per cent in 2020 relative to 2019, which is higher than the 69.8 per cent contraction registered in the rest of the world. While the rest of the world saw an increase of 18.4 per cent in tourist arrivals between 2020 and 2021, arrivals in the Apec region continued to decline by 28.3 per cent during the same period,” it said.
Despite the upturn in international tourist arrivals in 2021 for the rest of the world, the report said the number of arrivals was still 64.3 per cent lower than in 2019, while the number of arrivals in the Apec region was 85.0 per cent lower in 2021 compared to 2019.
The report also emphasises the importance of providing travellers clear information about entry requirements relating to Covid-19. The information needs to be up-to-date and access should be easy. Thailand recently launched a one-stop information hub that highlights the summary of health and Covid-related border measures across Apec.
“Regional mobility issues are cross-cutting and involve several ministries, the report highlights. It recommends member economies to continue coordination and cooperation and develop a mechanism that are flexible, ready and quick in order to immediately respond to future risks to cross-border mobility,” it said.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s Apec Senior Official and the chair of Apec’s Safe Passage Taskforce, Cherdchai Chaivaivid, said safe passage coordination between member economies needs to continue even when the pandemic becomes endemic.
“Beyond Covid-19, we need to come together and build that resilience in the face of future pandemics or crises that may affect cross-border travel.
“Travel and tourism are key to the economic growth of our region, so facilitating the safe resumption of cross-border movements will continue to feature post-pandemic,” he said.
Since its inception earlier this year, the taskforce has been exchanging best practices on the safe resumption of cross-border travel at the domestic, sub-regional and regional levels.
It has worked towards greater alignment of approaches across Apec, for example, through policy discussions on facilitating travel for air and maritime crew as well as improved interoperability of vaccine certificates issued by Apec economies.