Sat, May 17, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Asian tourism may recover by end of the year, UN says


The tourism industry may recover by the end of the year if SARS can be contained in the month ahead, the secretary general of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) said.

SARS has contributed to the tourism industry's worst slump since World War II, the WTO said.

"If SARS comes under control this summer, we can expect a rebound for the end of the year," said Francesco Frangialli, the WTO's secretary general, in a televised interview. "We can still have a positive figure in arrivals in 2003 in spite of everything."

The number of people visiting another country rose 3.1 percent to 715 million last year as Asia drew more visitors than North and South America for the first time, the WTO said in January. Concern about SARS will cut business in the industry by 40 percent this year in the regions worst affected, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said yesterday.

While the UN health agency said yesterday that 29 countries have reported a total of 7,699 SARS infections, China and Hong Kong today said they added the fewest SARS cases in one day since updates began. Taiwan's new infections fell by more than half from yesterday, while Singapore cleared 15 suspected patients and may be taken off the list of affected areas.

"In the past, Asia has been the engine for the tourism sector worldwide," said Frangialli at a travel conference in Portugal organized by the WTTC. "There was an 8 percent increase in arrivals to Asian destinations in 2002. After Bali and after SARS, this engine now has stopped."

Business travel in Asia, which represents a fifth of the US$250 billion global total, will decrease by 5 percent this year after posting growth of more than 10 percent in each of the past four years, the UN has said.

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