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Travellers urged to resume Asia visits

The Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on Crisis Management, convened by the World Tourism Organization (WTO), on Wednesday welcomed the news that…

The Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on Crisis Management, convened by the World Tourism Organization (WTO), on Wednesday welcomed the news that the SARS epidemic is under control and issued the following joint message to travellers around the world:

It is now safe to resume holidays and business trips to all Asian destinations, with the exception of the city of Beijing-the only place where the World Health Organization (WHO) SARS travel warning remains in effect.

Countries of the Asia-Pacific region are cooperating actively and responsibly with WHO in implementing entry and exit screening to ensure the health and safety of visitors and prevent a reappearance of the disease.

As travel to the region resumes, we look forward to reconnecting with our international visitors and we are confident that Asia-Pacific will quickly recover its position as a global business hub and the driving force for tourism growth worldwide.

The statement was made following a one-day WTO Ministerial Summit on Crisis Management attended by tourism ministers and high-ranking officials from 27 Asia-Pacific countries, as well as representatives of several international organizations, including WHO, the International Air Traffic Association (IATA) and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Regional officials revealed the devastating effect SARS has had on the tourism business throughout Asia-Pacific over the past three months. International arrivals dropped as much as 80% in the hardest hit destinations and even countries with no SARS cases, such as Cambodia, reported decreases up to 40% in tourist arrivals.

WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said the SARS crisis and other crises suffered by the tourism sector over the past two years have taught the industry three hard but valuable lessons: First, the need for pre-crisis planning in crisis management techniques; secondly, the need for honest and transparent communication; and thirdly, the importance of cooperation to overcome a crisis.

Despite all the recent obstacles, Mr. Frangialli said world tourism was on the road to recovery. He said an expected improvement in the global economic situation in the United States and Europe in the third quarter of the year would lead to a notable increase in bookings and departures by the end of the year, due to pent up demand for travel.

Promotion of intra-regional travel was endorsed by delegates as a way to kick start the tourism recovery in Asia-Pacific. WTO and several of its Asia-Pacific members have been advocating an increased focus on intra-regional travel. The idea was reiterated by the Secretary of Tourism of the Philippines, Richard Gordon, host of the Ministerial Summit.

The Ministerial Summit was convened in conjunction with the annual meeting of WTO`s Regional Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, held on June 19. It was preceded by a two-day technical seminar on implementing Tourism Satellite Accounts-a procedure designed to give a true picture of the economic impact of the tourism industry.

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