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Post-tsunami update: Tourism on a recovery path

Phuket Air takes 13 aircraft offline

Post-tsunami update: Tourism on a recovery path

Come to Thailand and be happy

Reinhard Hohler

In recent years a series of crises has taken place, such as the September 11 in the US in 2001, the Bali bombing incident in Indonesia in 2002, SARS and the Iraq War in 2003, bird flu and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004. All of them have certainly affected the growth rate in the tourism industry and are still harming the development of tourism worldwide.

Sri Lanka’s first quarter tourist arrival figures of 2005 were encouraging. Rozanne Diasz, Miss Sri Lanka 2005 is competing in the Miss Universe contest and will promote the beauty of her country.

However, due the great efforts of international organizations and governments, active signs have been recorded as recent as the PATA Annual Conference held in Macau in April 2005, where some of Pacific Asia Travel Association member countries spread good news during their press conferences.

Malraj B. Kiriella, marketing director of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, reported that the first quarter tourist arrival figures of 2005 to his country are very encouraging. Tourist arrivals for March 2005 show a 31 percent increase over the comparable period in 2003, with 50,418 visitors in March 2004. Arrivals from India show a 100 percent increase, while tourist inflows from Singapore, Malaysia, China and Japan are also showing positive increases. To sustain its highly successful post-tsunami strategy, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board has established the www.bounce web-site.

Indonesia presented its new Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, to announce that places such as Jogjakarta and Bali are totally safe and representatives of the media should come by and see for themselves. Disaster has hit Aceh in Sumatra and the Island of Nias. There will be tremors and after-shakes, but in spite of that Indonesia will target 6 million tourists in 2005.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board held a media briefing to provide an overview of the strategic direction of the upcoming 2006 Discover Hong Kong Year. Executive Director Clara Chong revealed that the campaign would bring total arrivals in 2006 to a new record by reaching more than 27 million visitors. With several new infrastructure projects, such as the cable car to Lantau Island, 2006 presents a golden opportunity making Hong Kong the must-visit destination on any China itinerary.

Dr. Abdulla Mausoom, Director of the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board, assured the media that the chain of 1190 coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean did not suffer from the tsunami at all. Bangkok Airways plans to fly there from its Bangkok hub and it remains to be seen if visitor arrival trends from Thailand will surge. The Maldives has a population of 270.000 people, occupying only around 200 islands. Male International Airport is located on an island of its own, which is for the exclusive usage of the airport and only a short boat ride from the capital.

Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Phornsiri Manoharn, deputy governor for international marketing, explained that 2004 was a good year for Thai tourism, even though the final week of the year was impacted by the tsunami. Thailand has set a target of welcoming more than 13 million visitors by the end of 2005. Inspired by that, the basis for all the upcoming activities is the “Happiness on Earth” campaign.

The message seems simple – come to Thailand and be happy. Furthermore, on May 30, 2005 Thailand will host the Miss Universe Pageant in Bangkok (at least one of the young ladies will be happy!).

For the troubled South, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has pledged that all the beach areas affected by the December 26 tsunami will be rebuilt in accordance with the strict principles of sustainable development. Thailand’s newly appointed Minister of Tourism and Sports, Somsak Thepsuthin, will revive the tourism industry in the six affected provinces accordingly.

In Vietnam, tourism is considered as a spearhead economic sector, and the authorities at all levels have realized the important role of tourism. Nguyen Huu Tho, Vice Chairman PATA Vietnam Chapter revealed that in 2004 there were nearly 3 million international visitors - up 20 percent compared to 2003. By 2010, Vietnam intends to double that number to six million international visitors.

The Director of Tourism Marketing of the Nepal Tourism Board, Nandini Lahe-Thapa, promoted the recently launched new tourism products in the areas of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth, and Lumbini – the Buddha’s birthplace. Travel information on Nepal can be easily obtained on the web-site. Phuket Air is planning to connect Katmandu with Bangkok. If there were direct flights from Chiang Mai to Katmandu, Nepal would gain even more popularity to be the Center of Adventure and Eco-tourism as well as Gateway to Tibet.

Surprisingly, Tourism Malaysia did not hold a press briefing, but its Tourism Minister Dr. Leo Michael Toyad attended the conference in style, commanding a special booth to advertise the next big event of the travel industry, namely the PATA Travel Mart in Kuala Lumpur on September 27-30, 2005.

Phuket Air takes 13 aircraft offline

Jeremy Colson

Phuket Air has taken 13 of its 19 aircraft out of service for maintenance problems and a collapse in its international route network following aircraft safety problems on its now terminated European services.

Only five of its fleet are left in service – four YS11s configured with 54 seats and a Boeing 737-200. Another aircraft, a B747-300, is parked at London’s Gatwick airport where it was seized last month pending payment of fees said to be in the region of US$250,000.

A spokesman for the ailing carrier revealed it had cancelled its Bangkok-Phuket service. This follows last week’s cancellation of its Bangkok-Bali service. The spokesman told TTG Daily News that the Phuket service was terminated last week, shortly after the carrier’s service from Amsterdam was halted by Dutch aviation safety officials.

“The Phuket service was largely fed by holidaymakers from London and Amsterdam. When we stopped flying to Europe the demand for seats to Phuket simply dried up,” the spokesman said.

Phuket was the airline’s only major domestic destination. However, it is still flying Bangkok-Buriram, Bangkok-Mae Sot, Bangkok-Ranong, Hat Yai-Phuket, Mae Sot-Chiang Mai and Chiang Mai-Udon Thani.

The carrier is using its fleet of four 54-seat YS11 aircraft to operate these services and is deploying its B737-200 at weekends when demand picks up.