(CNN) — Over the recent Easter break, social media feeds were filled with photos of happy travelers, many taking their first overseas trips since the start of the pandemic.
Ski holidays in Switzerland. Beach breaks in Thailand. That long-promised family trip to Disney World.
‘A highly uneven recovery’
And the bulk of them are in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We are beginning to see the early signs of a recovery with markets such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia and Cambodia relaxing their restrictions and initiating a recovery,” says Liz Ortiguera, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association ( PATA), which is made up of 650 member organizations, including government tourism bodies, travel agencies and airports.
“However, there remains a number of major markets in the region that are virtually closed from an international capacity perspective. The region as a whole is experiencing a highly uneven recovery.”
Japan eases entry restrictions — but tourists still left out
Tourists keen to hit the fish markets of Tokyo will have to wait a bit longer to get their sushi fix.
Japan continues to relax its strict entry measures — the limit on the number of new arrivals per day has been raised to 10,000 persons effective April 10, 2022 — but this does not include leisure tourists.
For the moment, citizens, residents, researchers, students, residents’ family members and business travelers with prior approval can enter. Some face quarantine, depending on where they are arriving from.
So when will Japan reopen to holidaymakers? The question of timing came up during a press conference held by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on April 8; however, no specific plan was announced.
“We will have to continue to make appropriate decisions based on the infection situation and international movements in each country,” he said. “It has not been determined yet.”
China battles to contain outbreaks
In Shanghai, once seen as a haven for foreigners, there is a sudden rush to get out. Harsh Covid restrictions are not only crushing social freedoms and grounding businesses to a halt in the financial hub, but they’re also making access to basic necessities near impossible for some. CNN’s David Culver talks to quarantined expats about what they’re experiencing.
Much has been said about how the world’s tourism economy won’t truly recover until China’s citizens are able to travel abroad again.
In 2019, the number of outbound tourists from China hit 155 million, according to the China Tourism Academy, making it the world’s largest market for outbound travel.
For now, Chinese citizens are strongly discouraged from traveling abroad and those who do face at least two weeks of quarantine upon return, sometimes more.
But what about foreign tourists willing to put in the quarantine time in return for a holiday?
Those wishing to fulfill their lifelong dream of walking along the Great Wall will have to wait to take those steps. Foreign nationals are not permitted to enter for leisure tourism at this time.
Macau not ready to bet on reopening, HK eases the door open a crack
Macau’s casinos remain off limits to most international travelers.
No firm reopening date from Taiwan
Leisure tourists keen to visit Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, will have to wait a little longer to visit.
Foreign business travelers have been allowed to visit the island since March 7. From April 12, foreign relatives and Taiwan residents with a valid alien resident certificate have been able to apply to visit as well.
Other travelers now welcome include those with a work/study visa, those coming for investment or business purposes, or visitors entering on humanitarian grounds.
Leisure tourists, however, are still unable to visit.
As more destinations are reopening their borders, Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare, said in February that the island had to consider easing travel restrictions so it wouldn’t lag behind in terms of economic development.
Several Pacific islands remain off limits
Samoa has yet to announce when it will reopen to international tourists.
Martin Valigursky/Adobe Stock
According to a report titled “Asia’s Travel-Ready Index 2022,” released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) last week, island nations including Vanuatu and Fiji are among the most dependent on tourism in the region.
Other Pacific island destinations that have reopened to tourists include Tahiti, Palau and the Cook Islands.
PATA CEO Ortiguera notes that circumstances are unique and each destination needs to judge its readiness level and timing to reconnect with the outside world as they manage the challenging balance of lives versus livelihoods.
“And to borrow an analogy used during a recent WHO briefing — each nation must navigate their unique path down the mountain from this pandemic impact,” she says.
“If I look at Singapore as an example, the nation aggressively managed down Covid transmissions and is now navigating a successful exit to reopen the market. I’m confident that these measures have laid a strong foundation for a sustained recovery.”
CNN’s Junko Ogura, Maggie Hiufu Wong and CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.