Two years on from the Boxing Day tsunami and despite another series of bombings, the trade remains confident the Far East will again see strong bookings this year.
Federation of Tour Operators director-general Andy Cooper said both Thailand and the Maldives now have levels of holiday bookings similar to pre-tsunami levels – only Sri Lanka is still struggling.
There, problems are mainly driven by the renewed Tamil Tigers bombing campaign against the Thai government. However, he said Thailand should not expect a similar decline in fortunes, despite the eight blasts in Bangkok that killed three people and injured 30 on New Year’s Eve.
Cooper said: “The Thai attack is a passing, short-term conflict which should end soon. Sri Lanka is a conflict that has been going on for 40 years and has spread to the more tourist-related areas.”
Somak Holidays head of product Rob Haynes agreed the British public seemed unconcerned by the Thai attack and his experience is common of several operators, all of whom have reported no cancellations following the blasts.
He said: “It didn’t get the media attention we perhaps thought it would. To some extent the trade and customers are used to things like this. The industry ends up worrying more than the average punter.”
Travel agents agreed the public’s enthusiasm for Far East travel was undented.
Jim Tadgell, owner of Ariel Travel in Denbigh, said his Thai sales for January were up this year, while Dorchester Travel owner Wendy Dowe said only one customer had asked to change her holiday itinerary following the bombs.
Thailand reassures tourists with police presence
Thailand’s tough security will help reassure tourists following the New Year’s Eve attack.
Tropical Locations head of product David Kevan said while the bombings had a limited effect on the UK trade, he believes the Thai government’s decision to step up the police presence at railway stations, the new airport and public areas was the right response.
He said: “As long as tourists can feel comfortable and the security restrictions implemented in reply to the attacks are seen as helping rather than detrimental, then people are still going to travel.”
He added travellers to the Far East are also more seasoned and unlikely to be dissuaded from visiting the country by the attack, which was a protest against the country’s military coup in September.
He said: “If you’re trying to cause serious damage there are plenty of other places you can target. It was a local political statement.”