Tue, 08 Mar 2005

From: AFP

Asian travel bookings OK despite tsunami

Agence France-Presse, Singapore

Travel bookings in Asia made a strong start to 2005 despite the tsunami disaster, a leading regional tourism agency said on Monday as it reported an annual growth rate of 15 percent for January.

Abacus International said bookings on its system reached 3.25 million in January, driven by strong demand from North Asia, although travel to tsunami-affected nations Thailand and Sri Lanka slumped heavily.

"After a stellar performance last year, this is a good, solid start to 2005," Abacus president and chief executive Don Birch said in a statement.

"Overall, our regional performance in January was excellent."

Birch credited the strong showing in January to North Asia, which saw bookings increase 24 percent on the year.

North Asia, which groups China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan are expected to be the main growth drivers in 2005.

"Taiwan and Hong Kong are traditionally strong markets but China is also coming up fast. We expect China to drive Asia Pacific travel and tourism in 2005 with travel growth of between 15 and 20 percent."

Travel bookings in IndoChina and Central Asia, which comprise Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, were up 12 percent in January.

In South Asia, which includes Bangladesh, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka, bookings rose 7.0 percent in January from a year ago.

Abacus said tourist arrivals in countries affected by the Dec. 26 tsunami, which killed some 270,000 people, had still not returned to normal and heavy promotions were needed to bring back visitors.