Tsunami affected countries optimistic of winter season arrivals
NEARLY one year later, countries affected by tsunami (Indonesia -
Maldives, Sri Lanka - Thailand) are optimistic that a strong winter
season marked by high occupancy rates will finally put an end to the
lingering crisis that has dragged down arrivals and tourism revenues
over the past 11 months.
But a World Tourism Organisation (WTO) assessment of the post-tsunami
recovery, which was presented to the recently concluded General Assembly
in Dakar, Senegal, indicates that hotel room capacity and air seat
capacity to Thailand's Andaman coast, Sri Lanka and the Maldives is
still substantially lower than before the tragedy.
It concludes that a full recovery will not be possible until capacity
is fully restored sometime in 2006.
The study is part of the Phuket Action Plan for the revival of
tourism to the tsunami-affected countries, including Indonesia.
The plan was created at the special emergency meeting of the WTO
Executive Council in Phuket last January. It laid the groundwork for an
unprecedented series of nearly 40 tourism recovery projects.
Recovery of tourist arrivals to beach resorts hit by the tsunami has
been sluggish. The most recent official statistics show arrivals to
Phuket still down by 50% in August, while October arrivals to the
Maldives were still down by 23% and foreign guest nights along Sri
Lanka's south coast were still down by 53% in August. But beach resorts
in all three countries are reporting forward bookings for December and
January between 80-90%.
Diminished capacity is most evident in Thailand. Indonesia presents a
different recovery curve. As tourism facilities were not damaged in the
tsunami that destroyed Banda Aceh, arrivals to Bali actually increased
from March through September. Terrorist attacks on 1 October drove
tourism down once again by an estimated 37% that month.
But officials are hopeful that the recovery will be quicker than
following the 2002 Bali bombings, due to stepped-up security and