The Asian countries that were so badly affected by last month’s tsunami say they will work together to help the region’s tourism industry recover.
At a conference in Langkawi, Malaysia, ministers from the ten member Association of South-East Asian Nations have been discussing ways of doing that. Thailand’s deputy tourism minister Krirk-Krai Jirapaet said they will concentrate first on rebuilting tourism from within the Asian region: “We hope it will not take long to get them back. We have recommended to the government that the local tourism industry should be the first to come to the rescue. People will see for themselves that the situation has come back to normal.”
It is estimated the region earns about 23 billion euros a year from tourism and it was just starting to recover after the slump from the 2003 SARS disease outbreak which caused a fall in international visitor numbers. Indonesia, which was worst hit by the tsunami, said it still expects tourist arrivals to grow by 13% this year as foreigners realise its major tourist destinations – like Bali – were unaffected.
Birger Backmann, from the United Federation of Travel Agents, said: “When you look at the reaction in Europe for instance, where I come from, many people feel they should go over there now to keep the tourism going. So there is a positive sense and I think that positive sense can been seen from the tremendous amount of money that has been collected.”
As well as the government eministers, more than 1,700 tourism industry representatives from 55 countries are also meeting in Malaysia, discussing ways to woo tourists back.