Asia-Pacific head of aviation said Asia would open to travel as the recent tightening of borders is only a “temporary speed bump” on the road to recovery.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, International Air Transport Association (IATA) Vice President for Asia-Pacific Philip Goh said he was optimistic about the resumption of travel in Asia in 2022 despite the region’s strict travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant.
“People miss travel, and they want to travel. You cannot substitute a hug, a handshake with a virtual zoom call,” Goh said.
Goh also predicted that the governments in Asia that closed doors to international travel to control COVID-19 would ultimately reopen.
“We are optimistic that plans to restart international travel will resume when more is learned about Omicron,” Goh said.
Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand have reintroduced strict travel curbs, while mainland China, Hong Kong, and New Zealand have doubled down on existing ultra-strict border controls.
Earlier this month, IATA Director General Willie Walsh criticized governments for introducing travel bans in response to Omicron and “putting at risk the global connectivity it has taken so long to rebuild”.
Goh said there was a need for a more balanced discussion about the costs of fighting COVID-19.
“That’s why we need governments to look at reopening borders, allowing the free flow of air travel without quarantine by treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease and managing it through testing and vaccination,” Goh added.
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