Wed, Aug 16, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Expert says new terrorist threat won't deter travelers

AFP AND AP , SINGAPORE AND LONDON

Travel demand in the Asia Pacific will stay healthy over the next six months despite tighter security measures after the British government foiled an alleged plot to blow up US-bound planes, an industry expert said yesterday.

Don Birch, the chief executive of ticket-booking firm Abacus, predicted limited fallout as a result of the stringent check-in measures that passengers have to abide by.

"By and large, travelers are very resilient and my guess is two weeks from now things will return to normal," Birch said at a media briefing.

"My forecast is people on discretionary travel may pull back but from our experience, the impact will be relatively limited," he said.

Airports worldwide have tightened security measures after Britain announced last Thursday it had foiled an alleged terror plot to blow up US-bound airliners.

While London's major airports eased restrictions on carry-on items yesterday, travelers still faced cancelations as airlines and airport authorities struggled to get service back to normal.

Passengers are now allowed to carry on board flights one item of hand luggage about the size of a computer laptop bag. Mobile phones, laptops and electric key fobs are permitted, but cosmetics, gels, toothpaste, liquids and sharp objects were still forbidden inside airplane cabins.

At Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, travelers again were forced to wait outside before taking their turn at a check-in desk. Inside the terminals, stranded passengers slumped against piles of luggage; some tried to catch some sleep on rows of chairs.

British Airways canceled 20 percent of its flights from London yesterday, the same as on Monday. BA cut four US-bound flights, 21 short-haul flights and 16 domestic services from Heathrow, and 11 domestic departures from Gatwick.

Budget airline Ryanair canceled eight services at Stansted.

Even so, strong regional economic growth in Asia will remain the driver behind robust travel demand, and first-half data showed higher oil prices have not curbed travellers' appetite, Birch said.

Preliminary data from Abacus showed travel bookings made via the firm's reservation system increased 5 percent on the year in the first six months of this year.

Birch expects the trend to continue in the second-half of the year.

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