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Saturday, 20 October, 2001, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Tourism crisis in spotlight
Signs in travel agent's window
Travel operators have reported a drop in bookings
UN experts are to hold emergency talks on tackling the global tourism downturn following the 11 September terror attacks on the US.

The International Labour Organisation says the attacks have hit the tourist trade hard and it is expected that the industry will suffer a long-term job crisis.

The move comes as the French tour operator Club Mediterranee (Club Med) announced it is to close 15 of its holiday villages for the winter.

Central America and Caribbean resorts will be the worst hit.

Club Med, Corfu, will remain open but several villages in Mexico will close
The tourism industry has already been suffering under the ongoing global economic downturn.

But, according to the ILO, which will meet in Geneva on Monday, there has been a far greater impact since last month's attacks on New York and Washington.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said: "We have already seen hundreds of thousands of lay-offs, and expect the long term crisis in jobs and enterprises to be even more severe."

The International Labour Organisation
The UN specialised agency which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognised human and labour rights
Based in Geneva, Switzerland
Has 175 member countries represented by workers, employers and governments
But based on previous experiences, such as the 1990-1991 Gulf War, ILO officials say recovery could be slow.

The ILO says large job cuts are likely, with seasonal workers, women, and on-call employees being vulnerable.

Particularly hard hit will be regions like the Caribbean, where tourism is a main source of income.

The agency warns that the hardship faced by many tourism workers will put pressures on governments to provide social and income support.

The ILO has already registered a decline of between 5% and 20% in the tourism sector compared to last year.

Club Med losses

Another blow to the tourism sector came on Friday when Club Med issued its third profit warning in 12 months.

The French tour operator said it would temporarily close about 15 villages in 10 countries during the winter season.

They include villages in Santa Lucia and the Bahamas, and others in Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Malaysia, Greece, Ivory Coast and the Canaries.

Three villages in Mexico - at Huatulco, Playa Blanca, and Sonora Bay - will be closed until the end of next summer.

The closures will reduce Club Med's winter capacity by about 15%.

Visitor slumps

September and October are traditionally peak months for the travel trade.

But many countries have reported slumps in visitors following 11 September.

American visits to France are down 91% and Japanese tourism has fallen by 80%.

The British Tourist Authority has not put a figure on the impact of the attacks on foreign visitors to the UK but predicts that it will be severe.

The nearest precedent was in 1991, when the Gulf War resulted in a 22% drop in North American visitors, and a 5% drop in total visitors to Britain.

See also:

19 Oct 01 | Business
Lufthansa warns of 'drastic cuts'
21 Sep 01 | Americas
Tourism shaken to the core
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