Travel Weekly's Asia-Pacific E-letter: Jan. 3, 2005

TSUNAMI: In the wake of a massive tsunami that devastated coastal areas throughout south and southeast Asia, the U.S. State Department urged Americans to avoid all non-emergency travel to the Asian countries affected. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and the Maldives were the hardest hit. Operators of tours and vacation packages to the affected areas were kept busy fielding phone calls, tracking passengers, reassuring travel agents and family members regarding the well being of their clients and rerouting passengers.

PHUKET HIT HARD: In Thailand, one of the worst-hit areas was Phuket, where massive waves and walls of water crashed into coastal towns and beach resorts lining the Andaman coast along the western portion of the island, which accounts for about 40% of the country's $10 billion tourism industry. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, beachfront resorts lining the Andaman coast incurred "severe damage and destruction." In addition to Phuket, hard-hit areas reporting widespread damage are Phang-Nga, Krabi, Koh Lanta Island and Phi Phi Island.

THE PHUKET AIRPORT remains open and operational, and resorts along Thailand's east coast on the Gulf of Siam, including Pattaya, Cha-Am, Hua Hin and Koh Samui, were unaffected, the tourism authority said.

STAR CRUISES took a majority stake in Valuair, a budget carrier located in Singapore. Star said the alliance with Valuair is part of a strategy to develop Singapore into a "world-renowned cruise hub rivaling Miami." The line said 130,000 inbound tourists from Asia, Australia and the U.K. pass through Singapore to embark on a Star ship, and a third of those passengers are from markets currently served by Valuair. Star said it would work with Valuair on various marketing and operational programs, including fly-cruise packages.

LANGHAM HOTELS INTERNATIONAL partnered with four frequent-flyer programs, effective Jan. 1. The agreements, which allow members of the loyalty programs to accrue miles when they stay at any Langham property, were signed with Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Qantas.

THE SHILLA HOTEL in Seoul opened a new spa in association with L'Institut de Guerlain, a company known for luxury cosmetics, fragrances and skin-care products. The Shilla Jeju, a sister property on Jeju Island, opened a Guerlain spa earlier this year. The spa includes 12 treatment rooms and Japanese-style "foot bath" areas.

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