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Minimal impact seen on tourism  Apr 30, 2009

Tourism operators foresee minimal impacts on their businesses from the outbreak of Mexico's swine-flu outbreaks, particularly when the country had experiences dealing with bird flu and Sars before, experts say.

Outbreaks of swine flu, first reported in Mexico and then in southern California, have raised fears of a pandemic, particularly from the US and Europe. More than 100 people are suspected to have died from the disease in Mexico, though only 20 deaths have been attributed to the virus so far.

Thailand has no reported cases of swine flu as yet.

The outbreak will have minimal impact on inbound tourism to Thailand as it is currently low season, Thailand Hotels Association (THA) president Prakit Chinamournphong said.

Also, many international tourists delayed their trips to the country because of local political unrest, after last year's airports seizure and the recent riots in Bangkok.

"Anyway, long-haul tourists from Europe and the US don't travel during the low season so as long as the disease doesn't come to Asia, we hope the country's tourism can gradually recover," he said. "I believe we can counter this problem because we had experiences handling the bird flu before."

Tourism Council of Thailand chairman Kongkrit Hiranyakit said the issue is a matter of concern because any regional outbreak would cause the number of international tourist arrivals to sharply decline, as with the cases of bird flu and Sars.

A single case in the region could have a negative impact on Thailand because tourists tend to consider a destination's risk on a regional basis, he said. This would add to the country's existing economic and political troubles.

Jennifer Cronin, Dusit Group's vice-president for sales & marketing, said the hotelier is not overly concerned by the issue, which has yet to affect its performance, because the outbreaks are far from Thailand.

Thai Airways International said yesterday it would apply similar measures as those imposed during the outbreak of Sars in 2003, and bird flu in 2004, to prevent the spread of swine flu through its service.

The measures include checking the health of both inbound and outbound passengers, assuring cleanliness in the cabin and other facilities.

Minimal impact seen on tourism
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