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The Dotonbori neighbourhood in Osaka is usually packed with tourists and shoppers. The number of infections in the region has gradually declined and businesses have been slowly reopening but the streets remain quiet. Photo: EPA

In pictures: coronavirus has left Asia’s tourism hotspots deserted

  • From Japan’s cherry blossoms to the Sydney Opera House, from Bali’s beaches to the backstreets of Bangkok – the tourists have vanished
  • Some countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, are promoting domestic travel. Others are planning ‘travel bubbles’ once restrictions ease
The coronavirus pandemic has proved devastating for tourism across Asia, prompting governments to impose strict lockdowns and causing international travel to grind to a halt.

Tourism remains a major plank in Asian economies. In 2018, tourism receipts accounted for 5.5 per cent of Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP), 5.8 per cent of Malaysia’s, and more than 11 per cent of Vietnam’s and Thailand’s. In Cambodia, it was 17.8 per cent of GDP, and in regions such as Bali in Indonesia, up to 70 per cent of the people depend on tourism.

The World Travel & Tourism Council projects there will be a staggering 63.4 million tourism job losses in Asia due to the pandemic.

In response, several countries have taken extra steps to promote domestic travel as they cautiously reopen. Both Thailand and Vietnam have launched campaigns to promote domestic tourism, offering lower prices to attract travellers to otherwise popular destinations.

Which parts of Asia are easing coronavirus travel curbs?

Other countries are considering establishing “travel bubbles” that would eventually allow visitors from other countries deemed to be low risk for coronavirus, pending the mutual agreement of testing protocols.

Singapore, Australia, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand, for example, are working to open their borders to each other and will start with essential business trips before eventually adding leisure travel. South Korea and China opened one such bubble on May 1 for business travellers to go between Korea and 10 Chinese regions on a fast-track entry, provided they test negative for Covid-19 before departure and after arrival.

Otherwise, many of Asia’s major cities and tourism hotspots remain conspicuously empty of crowds. Here’s a selection of images showing the some of the region’s busiest and most places deserted:

A lone cyclist rides past Singapore’s Merlion Statue in the near-empty Merlion Park. After a period of partial lockdown known as the ‘circuit breaker’, Singapore began allowing more businesses to reopen on June 2. Photo: Bloomberg

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The Golden Bridge in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang draws thousands of selfie-snapping tourists every year. Vietnam’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the most effective in the region but it will be months until tourists can return. Photo: Handout

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Cherry blossom season in Japan began early this year but there were few tourists on hand to enjoy the scenery. As coronavirus cases rose, the government asked people to avoid traditional spots for hanami (flower viewing), such as Ueno Park in central Tokyo. Photo: AFP

Japan’s cherry blossom season has come early but there’s no one around

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of Australia’s most recognisable sights, sitting alongside the Sydney Opera House in the country’s biggest city. The harbour itself is usually brimming with ferries and the nearby promenades full of tourists and joggers alike. Photo: Reuters

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Last year, Japanese authorities reported that nine deer have died after swallowing plastic bags in Japan’s Nara Park, warning that a surge in tourism may be to blame. Now, though, the deer are free to walk the mostly deserted streets. Photo: AP

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The deserted departure lobby of Incheon International Airport, which is the largest in South Korea, serving the capital city, Seoul. South Korea has been widely regarded as a success story in its response to the coronavirus but the effects on tourism are unlikely to subside. Photo: dpa

If South Korea is beating Covid-19, why are so many people staying home?

A combination of photos shows Nepalese Muslims washing themselves upon arrival for Eid al-Fitr (top), and the same spot in an empty mosque during this year’s coronavirus outbreak (bottom). Nepal has arrested foreigners who joined protests against the government’s response to the outbreak. Photo: Reuters

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Bangkok’s Khaosan Road is normally packed with tourists, street food stalls and noisy tuk tuks. Those working in the industry – which makes up some 17 per cent of the kingdom’s GDP – are facing a grim future during the period of restrictions. Photo: Reuters

No destination in sight for Thailand’s tourism sector amid coronavirus uncertainties

An empty marry-go-round in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. According to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan cannot afford to keep businesses closed and said almost all sectors – including domestic tourism – must reopen. Photo: Reuters

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A pedestrian wearing a face mask crosses an empty road near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in the Indian city of Mumbai. Nearly one-quarter of India’s cases have been recorded in its main financial hub, placing unprecedented stress on its health system. Photo: Bloomberg

Coronavirus: fear and foreboding in Mumbai, India’s worst-hit city

Bali is one of Asia’s most popular beach destinations but foreigners have been barred from entering Indonesia. The country has the highest coronavirus death toll of any Southeast Asian country and cases in Bali, while still fewer than Jakarta, appear to be rising. Photo: Reuters

Indonesia’s Bali becomes coronavirus hideout for foreigners amid pandemic

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The Patpong area in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is a renowned nightlife and red light district, usually crowded with tourists. Thailand has recorded a total 58 deaths and 3,135 confirmed cases. Restrictions are being eased but tourists are yet to return. Photo: Reuters

Life after coronavirus: future of Thai tourism industry is in Chinese hands

In Australia, professional sport has made a cautious return, but mostly without crowds. In Brisbane, cardboard cut-outs of fans we propped up in the stands during an AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Fremantle Dockers. Photo: EPA

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