By Vincent Vichit-Vadakan
Jan 5, 2021
MANY BORDERS ARE CLOSED and public health requirements mean jumping through hoops to go abroad. But when and where it’s safe to travel, countries around Asia are pushing travelers to explore their own backyards. Sometimes that encouragement comes in the form of cold hard cash to boost the hard-hit tourism industry. It’s win-win. When was the last time someone paid you to go on vacation?
Japan’s Go To Travel campaign gives a 35 percent discount on travel expenses capped at Y13,000 a night and an additional 15 percent of value of the total package in vouchers to spend at registered businesses at the destination, up to Y7,000 per night for trips up to seven nights. Even your souvenirs can be covered by the vouchers, so share the love and bring back a box of mochi for your non-vacationing friends.
The same terms are offered to Japanese citizens and foreign residents in Japan. Day trips also qualify if purchased through authorized travel agents. So, now is the time to explore those off-the-beaten track destinations like the still rustic Amami Islands, where humane bullfighting and traditional foods reveal a different side of Japan.
The Lao Thiao Lao (Lao People Travel in Laos) Facebook page offers locals and expats all kinds of deals around the country. In addition to discounted plane tickets, great deals on hotels and special packages, the page features popular contests and giveaways. One of the most sought-after prizes so far was a four-day stay including airfare for four at the luxury adventure resort Namkat Yorla Pa outside of Oudomxay in the north of the country where you can abseil down a waterfall, tool around in an ATV or spend the night in a treehouse. Visit the page regularly to look for other desirable prizes and offers.
From staycations to attractions, SingapoRediscovers Vouchers give Singaporeans discounts all around the Red Dot. Every adult receives S$100 in S$10 denominations; they in turn can buy subsidized vouchers for their children or grandchildren. If you think that Gardens by the Bay is just for tourists, think again; it’s arguably better than ever without them!
Activities have to be reserved through five booking partners including Trip.com. To be eligible, businesses have to be SG Clean-certified, meaning that they adhere to Covid-era health protocols.
Taipei is lending a hand to the tune of NT$1,000 a night for all Taiwanese nationals staying in the city on a weeknight from now through March 7. The deal, which requires online registration, also includes a free double-decker sightseeing-bus tour.
Meanwhile a generous NT$15,000 subsidy for weekday travel all around the island nation is valid until the end of January, and the government will likely announce new incentives for travel soon. This comes on top of general incentives to boost spending that can be used for other travel needs like restaurants and retail. No time like the present to check out gems like the sustainable mountain spring retreat Fleur de Chine.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is producing lots of online content to remind travelers of overlooked destinations like the hot springs in Mae Hong Son or temple-hopping in Nakhon Phanom. Rao Thiew Duaygan (We Travel Together) offers 40 percent off hotel rooms up to Bt3,000 a night, up to Bt1,000 on transportation, and Bt600 in vouchers to spend on restaurants and services per night booked, enough to keep travelers in regional street-food favorites during their trip. The program is only open to Thai citizens, who have to register on a dedicated website and then can book through online travel agents like Agoda.
Resident foreigners were also granted discounts through the Expat Travel Bonus scheme, but with just 5,000 room nights available, the deals ran out quickly. But individual hotels are extending their deals to residents and citizens alike. Just have a look at Phi Phi Staycation Package at Phi Phi Island Village Resort; now’s the best time to see this usually jam-packed idyll.
NB: As of this posting, a second round of incentives were due to be announced early this year, but a recent uptick in reported Covid-19 cases has the country implementing new restrictions. Check the news in each province before you plan any travel.
In Vietnam, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Vietnam National Administration for Tourism have encouraged businesses to work with localities to offer packages and promotions for both Vietnamese citizens and foreigners living in the country. Airlines are offering special fares, and visitors to the recent Vietnam International Travel Mart 2020 in Hanoi could pick from 10,000 different packages from 250 businesses across 47 cities and provinces, like the Resident Getaway packages at the plush, relaxing Azerai Can Tho in the middle of the Mekong Delta.