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Tourism fights back in the Face of Adversity says ABTA

As part of the ABTA Travel Convention in Marrakech, held between 24-27 November, delegates will…

As part of the ABTA Travel Convention in Marrakech, held between 24-27 November, delegates will review the previous year and look at plans for the year ahead.

This year, the UK travel industry has faced a number of man-made and natural disasters.

Martin Wellings, ABTA`s President said: Amazingly, destinations, British holidaymakers and tour operators serving affected areas have responded remarkably well. Natural and man-made disasters have become common-place in 2005, and as a result, consumers have become much more level-headed when faced with the issues. As a result the British holiday market is one of the most dynamic in the world, with our population determined to go on holiday no matter what, even if it means switching destinations at the last moment.

One thing is for sure, if you book an ABTA package holiday, you will be sure to have bought a holiday with the ultimate protection factor. Not only will it be financially protected, but you have also secured a minimum service guarantee. Tour operators have a duty of care and will make sure you will be looked after if things go wrong. Without, you are on your own.

This Year`s Events

Tsunami 26 December 2004

Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Maldives and Malaysia had a bumper year in 2004, but expectations for further growth in 2005 were well and truly dashed by the tsunami. But the nations have fought back and are have, on the whole, re-built. All are open for business and have been welcoming tourists back enthusiastically.


UK visitor numbers to Thailand were up so far this year by 3% (compared to 20% year increase in 2004). Most of Thailand was unaffected by the tsunami and as a result visitor numbers have so far been positive for these regions. Of course the regions most affected did see quite a dramatic decline in visitor numbers immediately after the tsunami and Phuket and Krabi are down about 20%, but it is likely they will bounce back in 2006. All resorts are back to normal apart from small parts of Khao Lak. All surrounding infrastructure is now back to normal and hotel occupancies are reportedly up to 70-80%.

There will be a special festival to mark the one year anniversary and the Thais hope to draw a line under the tragedy and move decisively on.

In 2006 Thailand will be celebrating the Jubilee of the King and tourists can take advantage of the `Grand Invitation` to special events celebrating the life and time of the King.

Sri Lanka

UK visitors are reportedly down to Sri Lanka by 7% in the first nine months of 2005. Only coastal areas of Sri Lanka were affected by the tsunami and its rich cultural heritage and natural landscapes away from the beaches were untouched. The only evidence tourists will see of the tsunami on the west coast of the island is between Bentota and Galle, which is slowly being rebuilt. Sri Lanka has had a great deal of success with some excellently priced deals. Tour operator product is still down, but commitment looks positive in 2006. The country has also taken the opportunity to rebuild worldclass resorts in those areas where hotels were badly damaged.


Now only 8 of the resorts out of the 87 resort islands are still closed; many of these have taken the opportunity to upgrade their facilities. Initially 26 islands had to close temporarily after the tsunami. Despite the islands low-lying geography, many escaped damage as they were protected by the coral reefs. The UK is now the largest market to the Maldives, but it is thought that overall visitor numbers will finish 20% below those in 2004. The Maldives have many exciting developments in the pipeline with agreement that 11 more islands will be open for development, while a new tourism zone with a new international airport will be opened in the South.


Malaysia did not suffer the widespread devastation of other nations. As a result business is running as usual and the number of UK visitors increased in the first half of 2005 by 21.8%. However, that message did not get through to all markets and visitor numbers from other countries in Asia are still down.


London – 7 & 21 July 2005

Despite the bombs in July, the UK will still experience a record number of overseas visitors in 2005. August showed a 3% growth. Interestingly, most of the negative impact has been from reduced demand from domestic visitors with museums, theatres and restaurant revenue the most affected. The rest of the UK doesnt appear to be affected at all by the bombs with regional hotels recording an increase in occupancy compared to the capitals drop in capacity of 13% in August. This is now recovering strongly.

Turkey – 16 July 2005

This year Turkey has gone from strength to strength. It is expected that the UK market to Turkey in 2005 will finish 27% up with 1.7 million visitors. The bomb in Kusadasi barely had any impact on tourist numbers reflecting the attitudes British tourists have when ETA set off bombs in Spain and the loyalty holidaymakers now have with the country. Some operators report 60% repeat business. A new campaign for Istanbul starts this month. Specialists and niche operators are taking advantage of the harder to reach areas such as Cappadocia, the eastern parts of the country and the Black Sea coast. Trips are now booking out to see the solar eclipse in March.

Egypt – 22 July 2005

The Egyptian tourist office reports that UK visitor numbers are up 54% from January to October 2005 to 665,866. The growth has been driven by holidays in the Red Sea and in fact there has been a slight dip in visitors to the more traditional sights like Luxor. Business has returned strongly to the Red Sea with airlines deciding to keep on all their flight routes during the winter season, while security remains tight. However, some operators believe that capacity is too high and report that consumers can expect good deals this winter, but so far promotional activity has kept occupancy levels high and rates will return to normal. Plans are afoot to develop the northern coastal region of Egypt.

Bali – 1 October 2005

In a bid to rebuild its tourism industry, the Indonesian Government has stepped up security measures in Bali since the terrorist bombs in October this year. British tour operators had been predicting a resurgence in interest in Bali in 2006, but have now revised expectations. There is signs that tourists are more resilient to terrorist threats, and although this threat remains high in Indonesia the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not advised going to Bali as there is no clear and present danger to British nationals.

Jordan – 9 November 2005

Jordan has had a record number of UK visitors in 2005 151% increase in the first 9 months. Jordan`s tourism minister said: this was an attack on Jordanians. Tours continued as planned and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not change it`s advice.

Paris Disturbances

The recent violent outbursts, which spread from Parisian suburbs, had no direct affect on any tourist sites.


Hurricane Dennis, Emily, Rita and Stan all hit tourist destinations this hurricane season, but on the whole facilities and buildings were quickly up and running after their attempts at destruction. It was headline grabbing Hurricane Katrina and Wilma that really packed the punches&.

Hurricane Katrina ripped out the heart of New Orleans, but left most of the historical buildings in the French Quarter, the Garden District, the CBD, Warehouse and Arts District with little damage. New Orleans is now working hard to revive its soul. 80% of pre-Katrina hotel capacity is now available and most US airlines have already restarted their flights back into the city.

2005 will still be a record year for Mexico despite the 70 hours of severe wind and rain suffered by the Yucatan peninsular with Hurricane Wilma. The storm took an unusually slow path over Mexico, which is why it caused so much havoc. However, 70% of hotel rooms will be up and running by Christmas and 100% are planned for January. Already operators have begun to go back, with some beaches in the Riviera Maya gaining more sand than they started with, while the first cruises stopped off at Cozumel on 15 November. Cancun will have an official re-launch on 15 December with the Paradise Forever campaign. This will kick off a number of festivals during December. $10 million has been dedicated to promote the Mexican Caribbean throughout 2006.

Florida Keys evacuated tourists and residents on 3 separate occasions for hurricanes Dennis, Rita and Wilma during this year`s hurricane season. Tourism bosses have been keen to explain that the hurricanes did not cause total devastation and that the Keys has a very efficient emergency evacuation system.

Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.