KUALA LUMPUR: The tourism industry is prepared with contingency plans if a war broke out in Iraq, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tunku Iskandar Tunku Abdullah said.
He said players in the Southeast and Northeast Asian regions, including airlines, had already prepared themselves with counter-measures after the Sept 11 incident.
Among the measures were diversifying their destinations or routes, he added.
He said the long lead-time to war in Iraq gave industry players time to work out measures.
Iskandar said tour companies were also more creative in changing their focus for travellers whereby they planned packages for new destinations in Indo-China or neighbouring countries.
Iskandar said the International Air Travel Association (IATA) also revealed that some airlines planned to reroute their flight paths to bypass the war zone if war broke out.
“It would take no more than an extra half an hour to redirect paths through special routes set by IATA,” he told a press conference to announce the launch of the Matta International Travel Fair here yesterday.
“Comparing the recent crisis to the Gulf War in the early 1990s, the tourism industry is much more prepared now to cope with the Iraq crisis.
“During the Gulf crisis, the industry was not ready to combat the negative effects and took about a year to recover,” he added.
Although there were people who were reluctant to travel, he said, industry players stayed optimistic about potential growth by focusing on Asian destinations and areas that would not be hit by the war.
“Some people have begun to shift from long-haul flights to short-haul flights, but it has not stopped travellers from going away for holidays,” he said, adding that if there were any decline in travel, it would be minimal.
He said Matta expected 100,000 visitors and targeted RM150mil in sales.
On whether expectations were too high with the looming war, Iskandar said last year’s fair surpassed Matta’s expectations with an impressive performance of RM110mil.
“The fair took place after the Sept 11 attack and Bali bombing but it still attracted more than 100,000 people,” he said.
Matta’s vice-president (education and training) Ronald Chan said some agencies had offered a full refund for cancellation of air tickets to buyers should war take place, adding that it was a pro-active measure to protect consumers.
The fair, expected to be the largest organised by Matta, will be from March 14 to 16.