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International bookings to SEA rising as borders open: Skyscanner

SYDNEY (CNA) – International bookings for flights to Southeast Asian countries that are relaxing tight pandemic-related border controls rose sharply in January, data from online travel company Skyscanner shows, in a positive sign for the region’s hard-hit airlines.

International passenger travel in the Asia-Pacific region was down 93 per cent from pre-pandemic levels last year, leaving airlines heavily reliant on freight for revenue, and the large Chinese outbound tourism market remains closed.

However, countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore are emerging from an Omicron-variant related pause and re-opening to vaccinated travellers.

Return economy-class bookings to those destinations from travellers in places like Britain, the United States and Germany rose by between 19 per cent and 300 per cent in January relative to December, according to Skyscanner, which is owned by Trip.com Group.

“From Skyscanner’s global footprint, we’ve seen that when restrictions do ease, travellers react and are willing to adapt to new measures in order to be able to travel internationally again,” Skyscanner Senior Regional Director Asia Pacific Paul Whiteway said in an emailed statement to Reuters on Thursday.

“Over the coming weeks, we will see markets react to the news, airlines announcing new schedules and building capacity to allow the return of international travel at scale,” he added.

Australia on Monday said it would reopen its borders to international tourists from February 21, leading to a 200 per cent rise in bookings on the first day, Skyscanner data showed, with the highest volumes coming from Britain.

Qantas Airways on Wednesday said it had seen a significant rise in inbound international searches and bookings since the border announcement. It plans to restart several international routes in the coming weeks.

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