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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 January, 2005, 02:50 GMT
Tsunami resorts 'ready in weeks'
Devastation in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka needs tourist money to fund infrastructure
The majority of holiday resorts hit by the Asian tsunami will be ready for tourists within weeks, the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) says.

It said affected resorts in Thailand would open within two weeks, while Sri Lanka's tourist authority said most hotels would be operational next month.

Abta members have offered tourists due to travel to the disaster region this month refunds or new dates.

Tourism is vital to local economies in many of the tsunami-hit countries.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that travel and tourism account for 19 million jobs, 8.1% of total employment, in South East Asia

WTTC's Ufi Ibrahim said: "There are people in the affected areas who are saying they are open, willing and able to support travel and tourism.

With people seeing the pictures of devastation on their television screens, it would have been amazing if there had not been a dip in bookings
Thomson Holidays spokeswoman

"If they are open for business and want the business at this point, then people should definitely travel to these areas."

UK tour operators have reported that bookings to Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are well down.

A Thomson Holidays spokeswoman said: "With people seeing the pictures of devastation on their television screens, it would have been amazing if there had not been a dip in bookings.

"We've only had a handful of bookings to tsunami-hit areas, with many people switching to other regions."

Revival

More than half a million Britons travelled to Thailand in 2002, according to Abta.

In Sri Lanka, tourism has recently revived after 20 years of civil war and accounts for 10% of national income.

Last year, 100,000 British tourists visited the island.

Charmarie Maelge, director of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board in London, last week said: "I've been left close to tears by British people ringing and saying they would visit.

Maintaining and restoring jobs is paramount to the short and long-term success of this country
Udaya Nanayakkara
Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourist Board
"The support of the British people is unbelievable".

Sri Lanka has stressed that most of its resorts are inland or on the south coast, which escaped the worst of the damage.

Hoteliers on the country's eastern and southern coasts aim to have all major beach hotels operational by the end of next month.

Tourist board chairman Udaya Nanayakkara said: "This is a huge commitment to getting not only the entire economy and the travel industry back on track, but also individuals' lives.

"Maintaining and restoring jobs for the individual is paramount to the short and long-term success of this country and we will be doing everything in our power to make this happen."

Abta's Frances Tuke said: "Once the rebuilding effort is completed, I feel these areas will be even more popular, with British travellers wanting to spend time there to help local economies recover."

The UK Foreign Office currently advises:

  • Against all but essential travel to affected areas on Thailand's west coast

  • Against all but essential travel to affected areas along Sri Lanka's eastern and southern coasts, and to the south-western coast south of Kalutara

  • Checking with travel and accommodation agents whether planned trips to affected areas of southern India, Malaysia and the Maldives are safe and tenable




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