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Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 13:46 UK

South Asia businesses and tourism hit by air crisis

Passenger waiting
The crisis has come during a peak tourism period

Business and tourism in South Asia are increasingly being hit by airline inactivity caused by the spread of volcanic ash from Iceland.

The export of garments and perishable goods from the region to Europe has been severely affected, as has the tourism industry in South Asia.

No country in the region has escaped from the economic impact of the crisis.

But officials say the priority is dealing with thousands of people across the region who are unable to fly.

Peak season

A spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines told the BBC that he expected the company to lose up to $25m because of flight cancellations to Europe.

Ash and smoke bellow from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano
The volcano will disrupt flight schedules for days to come

"Already 65 flights have been cancelled," he said, "which has cost us something in the region of $10m. This cost will continue to escalate - even if normal services are resumed soon - because of the interruption to our schedules."

The airline estimates that 16,000 passengers are stranded in Pakistan and Europe.

Tourism in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives has also been badly damaged. For Nepal and Bhutan the crisis is even more serious because this time of the year is peak season.

We are worried that buyers may reject these shipments because they are so late
Abdus Salam Murshedy,
Bangladesh garment exporters

Officials say that at this time of the year Nepal can expect in excess of 40,000 tourists for the climbing season, about half of those from the US and Europe.

Many will not have arrived at pre-booked hotel rooms, meaning that hotels and guest houses in Kathmandu and Pokhara - which make their core income at this time of the year - will be without guests at a time of good weather and relative political stability.

At this time of the year tourism in the cooler north of India is also hugely popular.

According to figures from the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), 41,435 passengers have been affected by the flights crisis and it will take several days to clear the backlog.

All flights from India to London and Paris were cancelled on Monday, but Air India and Jet Airways resumed services to the US and Canada through Cairo and Athens respectively.

Many passengers whose visas have expired have been unable to leave the airport premises while several airlines are reported to have stopped paying for food and accommodation - arguing that they are not obliged to do so in the event of a natural calamity.

Meanwhile, exporters in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have borne the brunt of exporting losses.

Huge consignments of garments in Dhaka and Colombo are waiting to be loaded onto aircraft. In Bangladesh an estimated 350,000kg of garments is stockpiled at the airport.

"We are worried that buyers may reject these shipments because they are so late," Bangladesh Garments and Manufacturers and Exporters Association President Abdus Salam Murshedy said.

Perishable exports from those countries in the region exporting products such as tea, spices and fish have also been badly hit.



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