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A travel agent has urged the trade to get behind the Philippines having visited the country on a 12-day fam trip in the days after Typhoon Haiyan struck.

There was some doubt over whether the tourist board’s trip would go ahead after the typhoon caused mass destruction and nearly 6,000 deaths. However, 12 out of the 20-strong group decided to take up their places on the trip.

Keith Lloyd, manager of Peacock Travel and Tours in Dalston, London, said he was saddened by the damage he saw, which included collapsed and damaged historic buildings. “We saw the devastation left by the earthquake that came before the typhoon. There were buildings ripped in half,” he said.

“But I am so glad I went. Those who dropped out – shame on you. We should be selling the Philippines and I can’t stress that enough. The people there rely on tourism.”

Malcolm Davies, of Funway Holidays, said the trip showed him how impressive the infrastructure was and how easy it was to get around the country away from the regions affected by the natural disasters.

Marjorie Valiente-Mohammad, marketing officer for the tourist board, said those who attended the trip were either not selling the Philippines or were keen to increase their sales.

She said a number of people decided not to attend knowing areas had been so badly devastated. “We hope that through seeing the smiles on the faces of the Filipino people, those who went will be encouraged to send more people to the country,” she said.

UK access to the Philippines improved last month with Philippines Airlines’ launch of a five-times-a-week Heathrow-Manila service.