AirAsia is pushing regional governments to relax travel rules to revive intra-Asean tourism.
Europe and the US seem to have adopted an endemic approach to COVID-19, while Southeast Asia might be the last region to reach that stage, said Tony Fernandes, chief executive of Capital A, parent firm of AirAsia Aviation Group Ltd (AAAGL).
Many countries in Southeast Asia are experiencing new Omicron surges, so international arrivals are not going to significantly change the equation, said Mr Fernandes.
He said testing remains necessary, such as pre-departure tests, but tourists must not be overburdened by additional tests upon arrival. They should be allowed to use antigen test kits or lateral flow tests, said Mr Fernandes.
Strict insurance requirements are another hurdle to reviving tourism as the number of vaccinated tourists who have been hospitalised for COVID-19 is small, he said.
“It is time to rebuild tourism in ASEAN,” said Mr Fernandes.
“We hope these countries will begin to remove the points of friction for travel.”
Regional tourism should be a priority without waiting for major source markets such as India or China to reopen borders, he said.
Bo Lingam, group chief executive of AAAGL, said the government must be sensible when determining rules.
The rules should not further inconvenience passengers, who already travel using discipline to protect themselves, as seen in domestic activities, he said.
On Friday, AAAGL, which was renamed from AirAsia Aviation Ltd, announced the establishment of an independent board of directors comprised of people with expertise in different fields and backgrounds.
The new board is separate from the board of Capital A and plans to focus on the aviation unit and setting up new joint ventures.
“Our vision is to transform AAAGL from a regional company to a global champion, in terms of financial performance, people and talent as well as corporate governance by working closely with the management team,” said Jamaludin Ibrahim, the new independent non-executive chairman of AAAGL.
Mr Ibrahim is a veteran in the IT and telecommunication fields with over 40 years of experience.
Mr Fernandes said the new independent board of directors brings together fresh ideas from different industries, countries and skillsets, giving management support and shareholders confidence.