Prof. Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee, Secretary General of ASEAN Tourism Research Association (ATRA) and Professor, School of Hospitality, Tourism & Events, Taylors University was interviewed by Malaysiakini to provide his valuable insight on Reopening ASEAN Region to Tourism on February 11, 2022.
Prof. Victor Wee noted that we have entered our third year living with COVID-19. Barely one month ago, many have speculated that Omicron could signal the end of the pandemic and speed the world to herd immunity. World Health Organization (WHO) now warns that Omicron is still dangerous for the unvaccinated and has led to many deaths globally.
As it stands, 90 countries have not even reached the 40% target, while 36 countries have less than 10% of their population vaccinated. The scope for virus mutation remains among the unvaccinated population, raising the possibility that more contagious and deadly variants may emerge. This is not reassuring news, particularly for people involved in the travel and tourism industry.
The national COVID-19 Immunisation Programmes in the ASEAN countries have brought down the infection numbers and allowed the resumption of business and domestic travel. Herein lies the delicate task of containing the virus, while trying to jumpstart travel and keeping the economy growing. The recent spike in cases of the highly infectious Omicron has dampened plans to open international travel and brought a return to restrictive measures. The responses to coping with the Omicron surge vary widely among countries.
Prof. Dr. Victor Wee suggested that the ASEAN governments should coordinate to harmonise the lifting of travel restrictions and facilitate movement across national boundaries. Some priority measures include the standardising regulations, removing onerous procedures, and adopting a form of universal digital health certification. Currently, this is not happening in a fast or integrated enough manner for the return of international travel.
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digitalisation into our work and life. The skills gap in the local labour market is a barrier to the adoption of new technologies. For the tourism workforce to be future-ready, agencies connected with tourism should use the lull period during the pandemic to host free online webinars and provide training for tourism stakeholders and entrepreneurs, focusing on digital skills and post-crisis reinvention.
By Professor Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee
Secretary General, ASEAN Tourism Research Association (ATRA)
Professor, Taylors University
The article was published on :-
30th January 2022 - Travel Wanderlust Online: How to open up travel in Southeast Asia
8th February 2022 - The Star Print: Barrier-free travel for all
11th February 2022 - Malaysiakini Online: Reopening ASEAN Region To Tourism
14th February 2022 - BusinessToday Online: Reopening ASEAN Region To Tourism
15th February 2022 - New Straits Times Online & Print: Reopening ASEAN Region To Tourism