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Latest Visa data shows tourism recovery still volatile in key tsunami affected countries

According to the latest tourist spending data released by Visa Asia Pacific, tourism recovery in selected tsunami-affected countries remains volatile…

According to the latest tourist spending data released by Visa Asia Pacific, tourism recovery in selected tsunami-affected countries remains volatile , with international traveler confidence showing signs of weakeningfollowing the series of earthquakes and aftershocks on Nias Island, Indonesia in March 2005.

Visitor card spend in the three tourist destinations hardest hit by the tsunamis of December, Maldives, Phuket and Sri Lanka, after a period of steady positive recovery through February and March, has fallen since April and is still experiencing year-on-year decline.

Visa`s latest data clearly shows that tourism recovery in the tsunami hit countries remains volatile and fragile, exacerbated by the recent earthquakes and disturbances in Southern Thailand. For destinations such as Phuket or Maldives where inbound tourism relies considerably on leisure travel, the impact of these incidents on consumer travel intentions is greater than originally expected and recovery is likely to take longer. Every week of negative decline in tourist spending represents millions of dollars lost for the merchants and thousands of jobs at risk in the local communities, said James Murray, executive vice president South and Southeast Asia, Visa Asia Pacific at the Regional Conference on Tourism Communications (TOURCOM) in Bali today.

TOURCOM is convened and organized by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Indonesia, and sponsored by Visa Asia Pacific.

During the week ended 8 May, international Visa cardholder spending declined by 35 percent year on year in Maldives, and by three percent in Sri Lanka. In Phuket, after reaching positive territory of six percent growth during the week ended 26 March, tourist card spend fell consistently through April to reach a 37 percent year-on-year decline.

With Phuket contributing to a sizeable portion of Thailand`s inbound tourism, weekly tourist card spend in the country slowed to 12 percent by 8 May, almost half its highest point of 23 percent year-on-year-growth at the end of March.

The WTO`s TOURCOM event is an essential reminder to the public and private sector players in the tourism industry how critical effective stakeholder communications is in this post-crisis phase. Based on the findings from Visa`s Post-Tsunami Global Travel Intentions Research released in March, consumers` main barriers to travel are clearly perceptions about the infrastructural readiness and safety of the destinations.

Visa`s study also shows that the tsunami`s impact on travel to Asia varies considerably by source market. Travelers from certain countries have higher levels of apprehension and resistance to visiting tsunami-affected countries, while others are more impervious and supportive. This is mirrored in our analysis of tourist spending in Phuket during March and April, when the largest year-on-year losses in international card spend were incurred by Asian travellers, particularly from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan as well as Europeans to varying degrees. On the other hand, American cardholders were spending 18 percent more in Phuket than last year and Canadians similarly outspent last year by eight percent.

Tourism industries across Asia should adopt a varied and sustained approach when communicating and marketing to consumers and travel trade in different source markets, to address their respective concerns and rebuild confidence,
Murray added.

Bright Spot – Bali At the conference, Murray also presented data on international visitor card spend in Indonesia and its major tourist location Bali, since 1997. Flat or negative growth in tourist card spend persisted for many years in the aftermath of the economic crisis and political turbulences, highlighting the crippling effect that security and safety have on inbound tourism growth.

However, recent trends seem to demonstrate that Indonesia`s tourism industry is on the road to stabilization and revival. During the 18 consecutive months from November 2003 to April 2005, Bali experienced the longest period of positive year-on-year growth in the past eight years, reaching the highest growth of 34 percent in March boosted by the Easter holidays.

To help sustain the momentum of inbound tourism into Bali, Visa is running a Visit Bali 2005 program till October this year. In collaboration with 56 merchants in Bali, the Visa program promotes the best of the tourist destination to domestic and international cardholders, offering them special privileges and discounts with a Visa Savings Passport.

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.