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Last Updated: Monday, 24 January, 2005, 05:03 GMT
Asean seeks to revive tourism
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

A Thai resort in Bang Tao, Phuket, levelled by the tsunami
Many Thai resorts in Phuket were virtually levelled by the tidal waves
The south-east Asian tourist industry is gathering in Malaysia for its first major meeting since December's deadly earthquake and tsunami.

Tourism ministers from the 10-member regional grouping (Asean) will discuss measures to help the industry recover.

Tourism accounts for more than 10% of the domestic output in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia and provides millions of jobs.

Of the three, Thailand's industry was the worst hit by the tsunami.

More than 5,000 people died there when the waves struck, many of them in resorts near the island of Phuket and along the coastlines of the south.

'Beaches safe'

Ministers and industry bosses meeting on the holiday island of Langkawi will be looking for ways to help one another, not just in the wake of the disaster but in the long-term.

Top of the meeting's agenda is the suggestion that south-east Asia be promoted outside the region as a single destination.

Although tourism infrastructure is quickly being repaired, the region's worried that visitors may think twice about holidaying here.

While Malaysia suffered far less than its neighbours, officials say many western tourists are cancelling their visits.

There are also moves to encourage tourism within the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).

However, the meeting's priority must be to get the message out to the world that beaches here are safe and open for business.

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