Tue, Dec 28, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Ticket refunds available for tours to affected areas

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH BLOOMBERG

Consumers who have purchased tour packages to the Thai island of Phuket, as well as the Maldives and Sri Lanka -- which were hit hard by massive tsunamis on Sunday -- can demand full refunds except necessary expenditures from tour agencies up to Jan. 10, the Travel Agent Association of Taiwan (旅行公會全國聯合會) said yesterday.

"After meeting with the Tourism Bureau, we've decided to prolong the refund period for one more week from the originally planned date of Jan. 3," Roget Hsu (許高慶), the association's secretary general, said in a telephone interview.

The association's figures showed there were 403 Taiwanese in Phuket and two in Maldives yesterday, while the disaster has left at least one Taiwanese dead and three others injured as of press time.

As the nation's outbound market to Phuket in the wintertime often sees weak demand, Hsu said the disaster would not have a big impact on the tourism sector.

Ming Chen (陳明明), deputy marketing manager of online agency Star Travel Corp (燦星旅遊網), said the company would follow the government's instructions to refund consumers for group tour packages, while suggesting other destinations to them.

He estimated the value of trip cancellations by the year's end will amount to between NT$1 million and NT$2 million, or around 2 percent of monthly revenues.

"I don't think the tourism industry will be affected as hard as everyone thinks, as rebuilding hotels and related facilities destroyed by tidal waves will not take long, compared with that in quake-struck areas," Chen said.

Starting from mid-January, promotional tour packages to Phuket will be introduced, which will further boost demand, he added.

However, the tourism industry in Thailand is preparing to face its coldest season in years.

The Bloomberg wire service reported yesterday that Airports of Thailand Pcl, the Asian country's biggest airport operator, asked all travelers to avoid trips to Phuket airport due to a shortage of transportation and accommodation.

But a statement on the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Web site said that Phuket International Airport is back in operation.

The Thai Hotels Association for the southern region, meanwhile, said foreign tourists had canceled about 60 percent of New Year bookings at hotels and resorts in Phuket and other southern Thai beach provinces, according to Bloomberg.

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