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Pacific Asia Travel Association

PATA urgues decisive action and transparency on bird flu

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is calling for decisive government action, transparency and the free-flow…

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is calling for decisive government action, transparency and the free-flow of information on the recent outbreak of bird flu.

PATA endorses the World Health Organization`s (WHO`s)urgent request that the following measures be taken to contain the spread:

1) Step up surveillance to ensure that any outbreaks are identified as early as possible.

2) Ensure that poultry-breeders, particularly in remote rural areas, are informed about the risks.

3) Ensure that all suspect human cases are isolated and that health workers and others are properly protected.

4) Guarantee the prompt and full exchange of information.

5) Make samples from poultry and humans available to the WHO for testing in its network of laboratories to see if there has been any mutation. (This would provide an early warning of a strain that could spread easily from human to human.)

As an example of decisive action and providing detailed information to the public, PATA supports the quick and authoritative steps taken by the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection which is informing travellers, that with a few simple precautions, travelling to countries where bird flu has occurred is safe.

In its advice to travellers, the Centre recommends the following action:-

1) The public should remain vigilant and observe good personal hygiene.

2) People should avoid direct contact with poultry and birds, and if contact has been made, people should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.

3) Poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked before eating.

4) People who develop flu-like illnesses should quickly seek medical advice and reveal their recent travel history to their doctor.

Within the travel industry, PATA has taken the following action pertaining to bird flu.

Over the last seven days, PATA has conducted a survey of its 88 members in Thailand on the impact of bird flu on travel bookings. The responses show that:-

  • there has been no downturn in pre-existing or forward bookings for hotels, tours and airline seats
  • demand remains very strong to the extent that some hotels are over-booked
  • among dozens of travel operators with numerous suppliers there have only been a few requests for information on bird flu from overseas travel agents
  • of hundreds of pre-existing bookings, PATA members in Thailand only reported two group cancellations attributable to bird flu.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of respondents called for decisive government action and transparency. PATA President and CEO Mr Peter de Jong said: Our respondents were unanimous in their request for government agencies to act quickly, decisively and in a coordinated and open manner to tackle bird flu.

In addition, PATA asked members of its travel industry communicators` database to assess media coverage in their respective markets and report to PATA any travel cancellations attributable to bird flu. All the respondents from around the region confirmed there had been no downturn in bookings. They also said that media coverage had so far been mostly informative and non-alarmist.

Internally, PATA has also put its 13-member Pacific Asia Coalition for Travel (PACT) advisory group on stand by. PACT acts as a crisis strategy consultation group and comprises representatives from travel distribution companies, hotels, airlines, airports, retailers, national tourism offices and PATA.

PATA points out that the World Health Organization has not issued any advice against travel. Mr de Jong said: I am pleased to see that, so far, there has been no appreciable impact on travel plans — and nor should there be. With a few very simple precautions, it is perfectly safe to travel.,

PATA recommends travellers to follow the advice of the World Health Organization. The WHO`s latest updates on bird flu are available at http://www.who.int/en/.

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