International tourism execs play waiting game

nternational destinations marketing to U.S. travelers are putting some promotional activities on hold in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, and some officials said the real impact on business will not be known until the world can gauge the U.S. military response.

Joseph McInerney, chief executive officer of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), said, "The impact on tourism to Pacific Asia and the rest of the world will probably be short-term, but it's going to depend upon two factors: The degree and timing of retaliatory action by the U.S., and subsequent response to that action."

PATA will go forward with its board meeting -- Sept. 22 and 23 in Taipei, Taiwan -- to review early findings from a report it commissioned on the short- and long-term effects of the attacks on travel to the region.

In the Caribbean, advertising and promotion plans are "on hold" for the moment, according to Gene Holder, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

The CTO annual conference in mid-October in the Bahamas could be postponed, but board meetings with all the ministers of tourism, which usually precede the conference, would take place, Holder said.

Caribbean Hotel Association president Ralph Taylor agreed that the industry could expect a short-term drop, but said the long-term prospects will be "dictated by the unfolding of events, particularly if the situation grows into an international conflict."

Mexico's Caribbean destinations, meanwhile, may be increasing some promotional activities, according to Miguel Borge Martin, executive director of the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He said the bureau will have to increase its marketing efforts in Central and South America to offset the drop in U.S. arrivals. But Borge said the bureau does not plan to cancel any promotional efforts in the U.S.

In fact, the bureau "will probably reinforce these efforts, although we will have to look at growing our budget," he said.

In New York, the European Travel Commission (ETC) said it will campaign to encourage both Americans and Europeans to proceed with travel as planned, said Walter Leu, executive director of the ETC in Brussels.

Leu told Travel Weekly, "We must tell the people that abandoning travel ultimately would probably encourage terrorists to continue with their evil intentions."

According to Roberto Talignani, director of the Italian Government Tourist Board, the consensus at a recent emergency meeting of ETC tourist board heads in the U.S. was that more radical steps would be "premature."

"At the moment we just are assuring our U.S. partners and friends in the Italian tourism industry that we are monitoring the situation," he said.

Talignani also contacted Italian suppliers and asked them to support the U.S. by waiving cancellation fees. Also, Italy postponed until Nov. 1 the debut of its Life in High Style promotion, originally set for an awards ceremony in New York on Oct. 11.

Five Italian regions, however, still plan to attend the Incentive Travel Meetings Executives (ITME) show in Chicago from Oct. 9 to 11.

Spain, host of this year's ASTA World Travel Congress, also will participate in ITME and has not postponed any events, said Pilar Vico, director of marketing and public relations for the Tourist Office of Spain in New York.

However, cooperative advertising with U.S. tour operators has been suspended.

Nino Messia de Prado, director, North America, of the Finnish Tourist Board in New York, postponed plans to participate with Finnair in 10 agent seminars in October.

For the longer term, De Prado said, "When we get a better sense of what has transpired, we will continue with our marketing activities ... of course, the consumers are the ones who will ultimately tell us what they want."

Gay Nagle Myers, Kenneth Kiesnoski, Paul Felt and Jorge Sidron contributed to this report.

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