NEW YORK --
Literally in the wake of a massive tsunami that devastated coastal
areas throughout south and southeast Asia, government and travel
industry officials are just now beginning to assess damage to the
vital tourism infrastructure that in some popular resort areas
amounted to total destruction.
In Thailand, one of
the most severely impacted areas was Phuket, where enormous 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 countrys $10 billion tourism
According to the
Tourism Authority of Thailand, beachfront resorts lining the
Andaman coast incurred severe damage and destruction.
The airport remains
open and operational, and resorts along Thailands east coast on the
Gulf of Siam, including Pattaya, Cha-Am, Hua Hin and Koh Samui,
Meanwhile, the U.S.
State Department urged Americans to avoid all nonemergency travel
to the Asian countries affected by the tsunami, with coastal areas
of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and the Maldives the
On the hard-hit
west coast of Thailand, the Krabi Resort on Krabi was severely
damaged, the tourism authority said.
On Phi Phi island,
where the film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed,
the tourism authority reported total destruction. In Phang-Nga
province, several resorts along Khao Lak Beach were
Accor said it had 350 guests staying at its Sofitel Magic Lagoon
Khao Lak hotel in Phuket when the tsunami struck, causing severe
damage. As many as 250 employees worked there.
Accor said there
were no reported victims at two other resorts it manages on Phuket,
the Novotel Phuket and Panwa Beach Resort.
Tree Group, which operates high-end properties in Phuket and the
Maldives, reported relatively minor damage to its
Banyan Tree said
three of its five resorts at the Laguna Phuket development were
affected, with one resort, the Dusit Laguna, reporting one missing
The company said
the Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and Angsana Maldives Ihuru
suffered minor damage and are operational, while its Deer Park
Hotel in Sri Lanka was unaffected. However, the opening of Banyans
Swanee Hotel on Sri Lankas Beruwela beach, which was under
construction, has been postponed until late 2005.
Taj Hotels, Resorts
& Palaces reported it will close the Taj Exotica Resort &
Spa in the Maldives for two months of repairs. Taj said its
Fishermans Cove in Chennai, its three Taj hotels in Sri Lanka and
its Coral Reef resort in the Maldives are functioning
Club Med said one
employee at its resort in Phuket was killed by the tidal wave,
which also hit Club Med resorts in Kani and Faru in the
International reported no significant damage to its properties in
the Maldives, where it manages and owns a 20% interest in the
100-room One&Only Kanuhura. It is also the manager and
developer of the 130-room One&Only Reethi Rah, slated to open
in the second quarter of 2005.
Kerzner said the
properties sustained some flooding, adding that both properties
were covered by insurance.
Operators of tours
and vacation packages to Southeast Asia were kept busy fielding
phone calls, tracking passengers and reassuring travel agents and
family members regarding the well-being of their clients and
Many of our areas
were affected, said Ashish Sanghrajka, director of Asia and the
Orient for Big Five Tours. Thailand was probably the biggest
tourist area affected besides Sri Lanka. But it was the coastal
areas that were most affected, the coastal villages where there are
very fragile homes.
Sanghrajka, Big Five rerouted clients going to Phuket, with some
rerouted to Ko Samui, an island on the other side of Thailand that
wasnt affected, and some to Trang, a city south of Phuket with a
beach that was not damaged. A number of travelers decided to forego
the beach and went to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to see Angkor Wat.
The Colombo [Sri
Lanka] airport is open, said Sanghrajka. We had a client flying
from Mumbai to Colombo on Sunday. But the damage was in the
low-lying areas, not the busy, well-traveled areas. The flight left
Big Five also had
clients in Chennai, India, which is just north of Sri Lanka. But
even there, the area most affected was around the low-lying coastal
villages, said Sanghrajka. The tour is still happening as planned.
The airport is still functioning normally.
Kent reported that its on-site offices in Thailand, Hong Kong and
India coordinated arrangements for clients who were traveling in
the areas affected by the tsunami.
contacted customers, informed them of conditions on the ground and
suggested alternate arrangements. Customers who had planned to
travel to Phuket were rerouted to Danang, Vietnam; Hong Kong; and
Chiang Rai, Thailand.
couple at the Angsana in the Maldives, which was unaffected,
continued their vacation as planned.
The effect on the
Maldives was very arbitrary, said Max Ali, director of sales at
Sita World Travel. A few places were badly damaged, some not at
all. We had some guests at the Taj Coral Reef. Its right on the
beach of a very small island, and it was not affected at
None of Sitas
passengers in the area was hurt, Ali said, but it will take some
time for a full assessment of the damage to the tourist areas
affected by the disaster. It may be some time until Phuket recovers
in the areas where there was the worst damage, he said. But we had
one couple at the Hilton Arcadia beach resort, and there was only a
little damage to the resort itself. No one was hurt.
We are now involved
in seeing that people are well taken care of, he said.
Cruise ships in
Asia were relatively unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami that
swept across the Indian Ocean.
because the Indian Ocean is one of the least-traveled cruise
regions in the world by North American-sourced ships. In 2004, the
region accounted for .01% of total bed days (a measure of capacity)
of Cruise Lines International Association member lines, according
to the organization.
The 10,544 bed days
that CLIA reported for the Indian Ocean region last year were
dwarfed by more than 31 million bed days in the
Of the cruise ships
in the region, Star Clippers 170-passenger Star Flyer, which sails
regularly from Phuket between December and March, was in Pangkor
Island, Malaysia, at the time of the earthquake, well away from the
epicenter, Star Clippers said.
The Star Flyer is
scheduled to return to its Phuket homeport on Jan. 8. Cruise line
officials said the citys deep-water seaport was not
meanwhile, altered voyages of its SuperStar Virgo and SuperStar
Gemini for the foreseeable future to avoid calling in
Given the magnitude
of the natural disaster ... Star Cruises has decided on the change
in the best interests of its passengers, the line said.
Spirit, which was cruising from Singapore to Hong Kong at the time
of the quake, and Swan Hellenics Minerva II, sailing in India,
continued to cruise without incident. The Minerva IIs Jan. 1
sailing, however, was forced to alter its itinerary.
Seabourn said its
ship reported no sensation of the quake or the tsunami.
The Spirit is
scheduled to cruise to Phuket and Yangon, Myanmar, in mid-January.
It is too soon to assess the extent of damages and their affect on
that cruise at this point, a spokesman said.
reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].
and David Cogswell contributed to this