The majority of travelers planning to visit Asia said that they would like more information about the affected areas, mainlyrelating to health and sanitation, followed by progress on the clean-up and the
impact the tsunami has had on infrastructure and tourist facilities.
These are some of the findings from the Post-Tsunami Global Travel Intentions Research conducted by Visa Asia Pacific for the World Tourism Organization (WTO) Emergency
Task Force that was specially convened in January to assist the tourism industries of countries ravaged by the tsunami. The main findings were released at the Task Force’s second meeting at the International Tourism Exchange (ITB) in Berlin.
According to Visa Asia Pacific Executive Vice President, Southeast Asia, James Murray,
“Since the tsunami disaster, there has been a significant drop in international travel to
affected tourist destinations such as Phuket in Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Maldives,
severely damaging the livelihood of many local communities dependent on tourism
revenues. This has happened in spite of the significant success the various countries
have had in restoring facilities and infrastructure.
Given the scale of the tsunami and the extensive media coverage of its aftermath,
international travelers are understandably concerned about the state of destinations in
Asia. Tourism industries and authorities across South and Southeast Asia are therefore
faced not only with the task of reconstruction, but also the formidable challenge of
enhancing tourist confidence around the world regarding the affected destinations.
Visa conducted the Post-Tsunami Global Travel Intentions Research for the WTO
Emergency Task Force, as we feel the urgent need for better understanding of travel
intentions to Asia among travelers from key markets, and of the barriers that may be
keeping them away.
Equipped with this information, we hope that national tourism organizations, policy
makers, tourism operators and merchants in the tsunami-affected countries will be better
able to address the most salient issues and concerns among global travelers, restore
tourist confidence and stimulate travel back to their countries more effectively,” added
For WTO Secretary General, Mr Frangialli, “this report contains essential information
about consumers’ perceptions in the main generating markets regarding the affected
areas and will constitute a valuable contribution to the design and implementation of
communication and marketing recovery plans”.
Tsunami’s impact on travel to Asia varies by source market
According to the research findings, among travelers who are planning to visit Asia, a
majority of 65 percent said the tsunami had no impact on their travel plans to the region
as a whole. 52 percent also felt the tsunami had not impacted their travel plans specifically to the affected areas, however 30 percent said the tsunami’s aftermath is deterring them from visiting these destinations.
The tsunami’s impact is most severe on Japanese and Korean travelers compared with
all other visitors, dampening their travel intentions not only to tsunami-affected countries,
but to the rest of Asia. Forty-nine percent of Japanese and 60 percent of Korean travelers
said that they are less likely to travel in the Asian region because of the tsunami, while 54
percent of Japanese and 63 percent of Korean travelers will be less likely to visit the
tsunami-affected countries in 2005.
On the other hand, the tsunami has the least impact on the travel plans to affected
countries among Canadian travelers (69 percent claimed it had no impact), followed by
the French (65 percent), Germans (60 percent) and Australians (60 percent).
In some countries, the tsunami actually had a positive impact on travel to Asia. Around
one-fifth of travelers said the tsunami has made it more likely for them to visit affected
countries, especially those from China (20 percent), UK (19 percent), Canada (18
percent) and Sweden (18 percent). This is a reflection of altruistic sentiments and a show
of support for the local communities, especially among Canadian, British, Swedish and
Australian travelers. They expressed strong belief that taking a holiday in the affected
countries is an excellent way to help the communities and economies recover from the
disaster. However, this is also tempered to some extent by feelings that they found it
inappropriate to holiday while the local people are having a tough time.
Murray said, “The Visa research clearly shows that the tsunami’s impact on travel to Asia
varies considerably by source market. Travelers from some countries have higher levels
of apprehension and resistance to visiting tsunami-affected countries, while others seem
much more impervious and supportive. Tourism industries across Asia may need to
adopt a varied approach in communicating and marketing to different traveler source
markets to address their main concerns.
Information needs: Health and sanitation are top of mind
The majority of those planning to travel to Asia said that they would like more information
about the affected areas, mainly relating to health and sanitation, followed by progress on
the clean-up and on the impact the tsunami has had on infrastructure and tourist
Most of the barriers to travel seem to be based on inadequate perceptions about the
infrastructural readiness and safety of the destinations. These are issues that can be
addressed with a targeted information and communications strategy which highlights the
recovery of the tourism destinations. Increased awareness of the health of the Asian
tourism industry, in terms of infrastructure, service and ambience is critical to speed up
the recovery and minimize further risks of slowdown.
Note: The Visa research was designed and conducted by AC Nielsen in February 2005
covering 10 key markets around the world - USA, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden,
UK, Australia, China, Japan and Republic of Korea. The research looked into salient
issues such as the impact of the tsunami on travel plans to Asia in 2005, choice of
destination, travelers’ understanding of the extent of the tsunami’s impact on different
countries, prospective travelers’ key concerns and their information needs and sources.