You’ve probably been hearing the phrase “travel bubble” all over the news these past few weeks. Governments and tourism industry experts are calling it the new normal of tourism. But what is a travel bubble, and how will it affect the travel industry?
The birth of the travel bubble
It is not a surprise that countries around the world are finding ways to open their doors to tourists as lockdowns begin to ease. However, the basis for such a significant decision is not a simple case of wanderlust and missing loved ones. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on industries, and travel and tourism are among the hardest hit. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, international tourism could decline by up to 80 percent this year over 2019, putting at least 100 million jobs at risk.
There are towns, cities, and countries that greatly depend on tourist spending. Thus, governments worldwide are trying to find ways to slowly and safely restore the revenue streams associated with international travel. This, in turn, brings us to the concept of the travel bubble.
What is a travel bubble?
The International Air Transport Association defines a travel bubble as “a state-level agreement that enables international air travel between two or more countries based on a mutually agreed set of public health mitigation measures.” In other countries, travel bubbles are referred to as “travel corridors,” “corona corridors,” or “travel bridges.”
A travel bubble is a partnership between countries that have demonstrated considerable success in containing and combatting the COVID-19 pandemic within their borders. These countries reestablish connections between them by opening up borders and allowing residents from both nations to travel freely within the bubble without undergoing on-arrival quarantine for two weeks. However, health protocols and hygiene best practices still apply.
Are there travel bubbles in the Philippines?
For domestic travelers, yes. Tagaytay and Boracay have reopened to nearby locals amid the pandemic. The Baguio City – Ilocos Region or “Ridge to Reef” travel bubble is among the most anticipated. Additionally, El Nido, Palawan resorts have had successful El Nido – Manila travel bubbles since July. More eco-luxury accommodations in the seaside town plan to reopen. In the meantime, local government leaders from Visayas and Mindanao are looking forward to seeing a success model.
For international travelers, we hope to find travel bubbles in the Philippines soon. The Philippine government is looking at tourists from countries with low to zero COVID-19 cases, such as Australia and New Zealand. At a briefing last June 26, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said that the government is considering a travel bubble or travel corridor policy where tourists could fly directly to tourist hotspots with international airports. Travelers to Boracay, for example, will fly in via Kalibo International Airport.
Where can I find other travel bubbles in the Asia Pacific?
There are positive signs that travel bubbles could work. Several bubbles are already working in parts of Asia Pacific, and discussions remain ongoing about several others. Australia, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand are among the countries with existing travel bubbles or negotiations in the works.
Please take note that breaking news on travel bubbles from your country changes frequently. Before you buy airplane tickets and plan your trip, check with your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and tourism office for the latest updates.
Will travel bubbles work?
Travel bubbles are the new normal of international travel. While governments worldwide cannot open borders to all visitors just yet, opening travel bubbles is a wise decision and a step in the right direction. For travelers, it is comforting that such bubbles are a sign that we may soon explore the world safely and sustainably once again.
However, trust is critical in ensuring the success of travel bubbles. The only way a potential partner will agree to such arrangements is if countries can show that they successfully contain the coronavirus’ spread in their locales. Unfortunately, unless the number of cases is brought down, the confidence of tourists will continue to be an issue.
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