Global recession coupled with regional instability has hit the tourism sector of Asian countries hard. Thailand, which is heavily dependant on tourism, has seen a 9 percent drop in the number of tourists. Sri Lanka, Maledives, India and Indonesia are also similarly affected.
Thousands of tourists were stranded at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok in Nov. 2008 following anti-government protests
The economic downturn and a decline in tourism revenues were the main concerns of Asian exhibitors at the International Travel Trade Fair (ITB), which concluded in Berlin on Sunday.
Thailand, which experienced prolonged political turmoil last year, is now struggling with the recession and the consequent drop in the number of tourists. Thawachai Awranyek of the Thai Tourism Ministry says that Thailand will bounce back from the slump.
“In 2007, we were lucky. But in 2008, we saw a thirty percent drop,” Thawachai says. “But after that many tourists understand that what happened in Thailand was only restricted to certain areas and that the Thai people will never do any harm to tourists.”
Sri Lanka's main problem is not the state of the world economy but the civil war and the resultant instability. The escalation of the fighting has led to a sharp drop in the number of tourists from Germany, according to Channa Jayasinghe, Director of Sri Lanka tourism.
“We received only thirty thousand tourists from Germany last year. We would have had sixty thousand Germans, if we didn't have this problem in Sri Lanka."
The Mumbai terror attacks last year have also put a lot of people off travelling to India. Now the Indian government has also come up with a new scheme to attract tourists back again. The Indian Tourism Secretary Sujeet Banerjee made the announcement at the ITB.
“The Visit India 2009 is a new scheme aimed at fighting the slump in the number of tourists,” Banerjee said. “We and our stakeholders in the airline and hospitality industry are offering tourists who book a ticket to India, another ticket free. They can also stay in our partner hotels for a day and get another free.”
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has described Asia’s performance in 2008 as having 'deteriorated most rapidly', compared with Europe, Africa and the Americas. The drop in the number of tourists has led to mass lay-offs in the hospitality and tourism industries in many Asian countries.
More than 280 million tourists visited Asia last year and experts now believe it will be quite sometime before the feat is repeated.