|beautiful Sri Lanka
Travel and tourism spending in countries hit by the December 26 tsunami
is experiencing a renewed slump, after an initial recovery two months ago.
The economies of the areas that were hit still remain fragile and are
likely to take a lot longer to recover, according to fresh data from
credit card firm Visa International.
Spending by cardholders fell in April and May in Phuket, Maldives and
Sri Lanka compared to last year -- all destinations that were hit by
massive waves that killed an estimated 273,800 people and left thousands
The drop in spending coincided with the earthquake on the Indonesian
island of Nias on March 28 and the resurgence in tsunami fears.
Travel industry experts at a recent World Tourism Organization (WTO)
conference in Bali also concluded that the recent spending slump
corresponded with a drop in media
coverage and interest in the affected areas.
Figures released at the conference showed that credit card spending at
Phuket in the week ending May 8 was 37 percent lower than the same week in
2004, despite being up by six percent in March.
A similar picture occurred in the Maldives, where a recovery between
February and March was followed by a 35 percent year-on-year decline in May.
"We found that $3 billion is likely to be lost from the tourism
industry in the region -- but that is turning out to be a conservative
estimate," James Murray, Visa's executive vice-president for Southeast
Asia, told the conference.
According to a Visa survey conducted in March, travelers are still
concerned about health and safety, as well as the state of the
infrastructure in the affected areas.
"Tourists need more information about the impact the tsunami has had on
tourist facilities," said former U.S. president and special U.N. envoy
Bill Clinton in a video message to the WTO conference.
Tourism experts at the conference likened the impact of the tsunami to
other problems that have hit the region, such as the SARS outbreak in 2003
and the Bali bombing of 2002. The travel industry took months to recover
from both of those tragedies.
According to data from Visa, the Indonesian island of Bali has shown 18
consecutive months of positive growth in credit card spending since