The Federation of ASEAN Travel Association (FATA) is calling on South-east Asian governments to work out a common and acceptable vaccine passport protocol to jumpstart intra-regional travel.
ASEAN, comprising 10 countries in South-east Asia, has a combined population of 661.5 million people.
With most South-east Asian countries fast-tracking their national immunisation programmes, FATA foresees international borders will be reopened soon and vaccine passports will play a crucial role in the restoration of regional tourism.
FATA president, KL Tan, stressed: “A uniformed set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be in place to avoid confusion and anxiety, and to provide a seamless travel experience. IATA Travel Pass and WHO vaccine passports to facilitate international travel need to be considered by (South-east Asian) countries along with our own ASEAN Digital Covid-19 Certificate, a joint collaborative effort by ASEAN governments.
“Having such (a digital vaccine passport) would be a practical solution towards validating passenger risk status before travel, (and) ensuring the smoothest possible experience for air and land passengers/travellers alike. It is essential to have such a certificate to support the reopening of safe travel. A well-coordinated approach would help avoid unnecessary stress for passengers and travellers, especially those travelling by air.
“Ideally, the ASEAN Digital Covid-19 Certificate will provide information on proof of vaccination, show if a person holds a negative SARS-COV-2 test result, or has recovered from Covid-19.”
Tan opined that in order to reap the full benefits of the ASEAN Digital Covid-19 Certificate, it will require the harmonisation of the verification protocol among ASEAN member countries.
To avoid duplication (i.e. checks by multiple operators – airlines, immigration, public authorities, etc.) and confusion, FATA recommends a ‘one-stop’ verification process prior to departure, involving coordination between authorities, airports and airlines.
ASEAN member countries should ensure that the verification is carried out as early as possible, preferably before the passenger arrives at the departure airport, in order to ensure a smoother experience for all involved, said Tan.
He added: “EU member states have launched their EU Digital Covid Certificate on July 1. We can always learn and improvise if necessary to suit (regional) travel requirements. As a region, (South-east Asia) should not be left behind and push forward aggressively for our own ASEAN Digital Covid Certificate.
“Tourism is one of the key economic drivers of (South-east Asian) countries. The EU have gradually opened up their borders subject to SOPs. (South-east Asian) countries need to do likewise to balance lives and livelihoods. Intra-ASEAN travel is crucial rather than depending on longhaul travel or travel bubbles to revive the floundering regional economy.”