THE two big gaps in the Asia-Pacific aviation recovery are China and Japan, Willie Walsh noted, IATA‘s chief executive, in his keynote address at the Changi Aviation Summit this week.
“As long as the Chinese government maintains its zero-Covid approach, it is difficult to see the country’s borders reopening. This will hamper the full recovery of the area.
“Although Japan has taken steps to allow travel, there is no clear plan for Japan to reopen for all incoming visitors or tourists. More needs to be done to further ease travel restrictions, starting by lifting quarantine for all vaccinated travelers and removing both airport testing upon arrival and the daily arrival cap. I urge the Government of Japan to take bolder measures to restoring and opening the country’s borders,” Walsh said.
Japan is taking tentative steps toward reopening. The government has announced it will accept small-scale visits for vaccinated tourists from the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore on a trial basis later this month in preparation for the large-scale reception. scale of foreign visitors scheduled for June. During the trial phase, small groups would participate in fixed package tours limited to areas where prefectural governments have agreed to accept them so that their activities can be managed.
Only visitors who have had three Covid-19 vaccines will be able to participate, according to the Ministry of Territory, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The government plans to double the cap on arrivals from abroad to 20,000 people a day in June.
Also this week, Indonesia announced it would scrap all testing for vaccinated travelers from May 18, joining the growing list of test-free destinations in Southeast Asia.
In his speech, Walsh urged Asia-Pacific states to further ease border measures to accelerate the region’s recovery from Covid-19.
“Asia-Pacific is catching up on restarting travel after Covid-19, but there is growing momentum with governments lifting many travel restrictions. The demand for people to travel is clear. As soon as the measures are relaxed, there is an immediate positive reaction from travellers. It is therefore essential that all stakeholders, including governments, are well prepared for the restart. We can’t delay. Jobs are at stake and people want to travel,” Walsh said.
Asia-Pacific international passenger demand for March reached 17% of pre-Covid levels, after hovering below 10% for most of the past two years. “This is well below the global trend where markets have recovered 60% of pre-crisis levels. The lag is due to government restrictions. travel and tourism in the region, and all the economic benefits that will flow from it,” said Walsh.
Walsh urged Asia-Pacific governments to continue to ease measures and normalize air travel by:
- Removal of all restrictions for vaccinated travellers.
- Removal of quarantine and Covid-19 testing for unvaccinated travelers where population immunity levels are high, which is the case in most parts of Asia.
- Lift mask-wearing for air travel when no longer required in other indoor environments and public transport.
“Supporting and above all accelerating the recovery will require a comprehensive industry and government approach. Airlines are bringing flights back. Airports must be able to meet demand. And governments must be able to process clearances efficiently. security and other documents for key personnel,” Walsh said.
Walsh also called on Asia-Pacific governments to support industry sustainability efforts.
“Airlines have committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The key to our success will be for governments to share the same vision. Governments are expected to agree on a long-term goal at the ICAO Assembly later this year. Achieving net zero requires everyone to take responsibility. And one of the most important things governments should do is encourage the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Airlines bought every available drop of SAF. Projects are underway that will see a rapid increase in SAF production over the next few years. We see SAFs contributing 65% of the mitigation needed to reach net zero by 2050. This will require governments to be much more proactive,” Walsh said.
Walsh acknowledged that there have been positive developments in Asia-Pacific. Japan has committed considerable funds to green aviation initiatives. New Zealand and Singapore have agreed to cooperate on green flights. “Singapore’s cross-industry international advisory group on a sustainable air hub for aviation is a positive example for other states to adopt,” Walsh said. He also called on ASEAN and its partners to do more, especially looking for opportunities in the region to expand SAF production.
At the same summit, transport ministers from seven Southeast Asian countries pledged to work closely together to urgently rebuild and restore air transport. In a statement, ministers from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia and Brunei said they would facilitate mutual recognition of Covid-19 health certificates and the development of a single market. of ASEAN Aviation.
The measures cited also include the harmonization of public health and safety measures related to aviation, as well as greater cooperation on sustainable practices such as new environmentally friendly technologies.
• Featured image credit (The Bund in Shanghai): huad262/Getty Images