The world-famous holiday paradises in Southeast Asia are bracing themselves against the consequences of Corona, but it is difficult for them.

The Thai island of Phuket welcomes the first few guests this Thursday.

But the Indonesian Bali had to postpone its planned opening again.

Worldwide, the failure of tourism this year and last would cost more than $ 4 trillion - roughly the same as Germany's annual economic output.

The world will not see streams of travelers again until 2023, as it did last in 2019, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) has just warned.

Worldwide, the rate of untrained unemployment has risen by an average of 5.5 percent due to the collapse of tourism.

Christoph Hein

Business correspondent for South Asia / Pacific based in Singapore.

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    These are the reasons why the Thai island tries to open at the time when the kingdom has the highest death rate from Corona.

    A so-called “sandpit” is planned - a fashionable term for trying things out in a defined sector, in this case Phuket.

    The prerequisite for entry is a vaccination against Corona.

    But what does that mean?

    Vaccination certificates can be bought on the black market, especially in Asia.

    And the well-organized city-state of Singapore, for example, does not officially recognize the Chinese Sinovac vaccine and requires corona tests despite being vaccinated with it.

    In Phuket, however, it is accepted by the Thais.

    Meanwhile, the Indian delta variant is rampant in the royal city of Bangkok;

    the government has imposed a lockdown on the metropolis.

    Phuket is 680 kilometers from Bangkok.

    "We first have to see where we are now with the latest wave"

    Four flights are expected to bring around 250 guests to Ko Phuket on the first day of opening. In good years, Thailand receives 40 million tourists. They contribute almost a fifth to the economic output of the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. In order to open the island on a trial basis, around two thirds of the people there were vaccinated against corona. Most of them live on the vacationers, who often stay in the sun for long periods of time. But now more than 80 percent of the hotels are closed, almost all massage parlors and brothels behind Patong Beach and many restaurants. If you want to leave the island for the mainland, you must have stayed there for at least 14 days beforehand and have delivered three corona tests during this time. Should the number of infected people on Phuket rise to more than 90 in a week,the island will be put back into a deep slumber.

    Bali will stay there until further notice.

    "We wanted to open at the end of July, maybe the beginning of August, but we have to see where we are now with the latest wave," said Sandiaga Uno, Indonesia's Minister for Tourism and Creative Industries.

    In an interview with the Reuters agency, he did not mention a point in time.

    Officially, the island is counting more than 200 new cases every day these days.

    The UN said he was at least waiting for the number of cases to drop to around 30 to 40 new infections.

    Digital nomads in their sights

    Indonesia is currently being brought to its knees by another wave of the pandemic. Nobody knows the real numbers; even in Bali, the test rate is only 15 percent of the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Hindu island is doing much better than the main islands of Java and Sumatra: While the hospital capacities there are fully exhausted, the authorities in Bali are still coping with the outbreak. Because in the hope of an early opening, many residents have already been vaccinated. At the end of July, their number is expected to rise to 70 percent of the island's inhabitants. So that the pandemic does not spread any further, Indonesians who are now allowed to Bali have to show a corona test.

    The UN is already trying to lure the world's digital nomads: For years they have enjoyed wintering in Bali and working under the local sun.

    Now the minister promises them that they will waive any income tax, if they only manage it for a company overseas.

    It is difficult for the traditional audience of the islands to reach them.

    Air traffic from, for example, the metropolises of Singapore or Bangkok remains restricted.

    The city-state of Singapore also obliges most of its returnees to spend two weeks in quarantine in a hotel room at high prices - usually without being able to open a window and often with poor food.

    Australia is not even letting its own citizens, who have just come from Western Australia have been the classic clientele for Bali, leave the country.