Monday, January 17, 2005

Travel to the Tsunami Zone 


Smart Travel Asia has an update for travellers about the situation on the ground in all of the Tsunami hit areas. Judging from the updated pictures and videos, it does seem like the clean-up effort has been reasonably successful. Vijay Verghese, the editor of STA lists a bunch of reasons why you will be contributing to the rebuilding of the hard-hit local economies and doing the region a favour by not cancelling your travel plans.

Asia’s holiday coast needs more travellers with the money and the moxie to make a difference. Tourist dollars offer a valuable life-sustaining injection that Asia cannot do without. Importantly, travel dollars percolate straight into the local economy where help is most needed, rather than vanishing into administrative blotting paper with just a fraction of the money reaching intended parties, as is often the case with international aid organisations.

It is also time for Asia’s tourism industry to link hands on a common platform and reorder priorities. Among the first casualties of natural disaster and war, is travel, in particular, long-haul travel. It is time then to rediscover Asia and – in a burst of good neighbourliness, as indeed marketing common sense – to redirect promotional dollars within the region to secure high-spending frequent travellers. It is mainland visitors in Hongkong who top the per capita spending charts, not wealthy travellers from Europe or America. It is true that Asia has yet to discover Asia. Yet, there is no better time than now.

The challenge for Asia is to convert the groundswell of sympathy that has brought the world together, into usable hard cash (in addition to well-meant pledges) that can fuel longterm recovery after the immediate Bandaid funds are gone. That will bring the lights - and smiles - back to Asia's traumatised holiday coast. Then, after the mourning, there can be a morning after. Travel dollars cannot bring back life, but they will ensure longterm livelihood for many. And that must be the ultimate aim of concerned persons everywhere. Spend your money where it can do the most good. Travel safe. But do travel.