Visa / PATA Update shows Tsunami-affected destinations Struggling to Recover

Travel News Asia 25 August 2005

New figures indicate that some tsunami-affected destinations are in the tourism doldrums more than seven months after the December 26 disaster.

The figures are contained in a post-tsunami update jointly published by Visa International Asia Pacific and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). They reveal that the Thai resort of Phuket is still struggling to recover from the after-effects of the tsunami, with arrivals down 40% and spending down 30%.

PATA President and CEO Mr Peter de Jong said it was time for travellers and the travel industry to rally behind the destinations.

It is understandable that some travellers, particularly from Chinese cultures, may have some concerns about travelling to destinations where many lives have been lost, he said. But we cannot help these communities get back on their feet by staying away. The best thing we can do now is continue to inform tourists that it is appropriate and supportive to visit, and that they will have a great holiday experience.

Mr de Jong urged regional airlines to ensure there was sufficient air capacity, and attractively priced airfares, to encourage consumers to return.

As at June this year, weekly scheduled seat capacity to Phuket for instance had dropped almost 18% and at least four carriers have stopped flying the route. These destinations cant make a full recovery until seat capacity is restored and the industry starts aggressively marketing and selling them.

Visa International Executive Vice President, South and Southeast Asia, Mr James Murray said he fully supported PATAs call for action, saying the latest figures were further demonstration of the importance of tourism to the economies of Asia Pacific.

We can see an immediate correlation between tourism arrivals, international spending patterns and economic performance, he said.

He added, What is unfortunate is that there is no link between these figures and the destinations abilities to accommodate tourists. Destinations like Phuket and the Maldives are ready for tourists and remain some of Asias greatest holiday spots.

The Visa / PATA Update provides data on international inbound spending, visitor arrivals, air capacity and hotel occupancy rates in the heavily-impacted tourism destinations of Phuket, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, as well as other destinations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and India.

It is the first update issued jointly by Visa and PATA as part of a new strategic alliance between the two organisations. Under the three-year Premier Partnership, Visa and PATA will cooperate on a range of joint marketing programmes and studies.

The two organisations have been working to promote tourism in the tsunami-affected areas since January through a combination of data dissemination, research, promotions and discussions with local and global tourism authorities.

The current update shows that total air arrivals into Phuket were down by 42% in the first half of the year, with international direct air arrivals down 67.2%.

International spending by international Visa cardholders in Phuket fell by as much as 65% four weeks after the tsunami struck on December 26, last year. Spending briefly recovered for a few weeks in March before dropping again, with average declines of between 20 and 40% through until the end of July.

International arrivals to the Maldives are down 46% year-on-year. Spending in the Maldives plummeted by as much as 50% in January and February, improving steadily through to July, but still down, year-on-year by about 10%.

The update paints a brighter picture for Sri Lanka, where spending began to recover in May and the year-on-year growth rate has since hovered around 10%. Total arrivals are also on the upswing, although there are still declines in occupancy rates in areas such as Galle.

See other recent news regarding: PATA, Visa, Tsunami

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