Don't hurt post-SARS tourism, Asia tells govts

BEIJING: Tourism officials of 13 Asian countries appealed to other governments yesterday not to hurt the region's recovery from SARS by indiscriminately discouraging travel following the car bombing of Jakarta's Marriott Hotel. 

The appeal came at a meeting of officials from China, Japan, South Korea and South-East Asian countries who were discussing how to revive tourism after the outbreak, which devastated airlines, hotels and other travel-dependent businesses. 

The officials, who included Cabinet ministers and officials of national tourism boards, “strongly condemn this act of terrorism as a heinous and ruthless crime against humanity,'' said a joint statement issued at the end of the one-day meeting. 

It said they “call on the international community to avoid indiscriminately advising their citizens to refrain from visiting, as such measures could help achieve the objective of terrorists.'' 

The United States, Britain and other governments issued advisories against non-essential travel to Indonesia following the Jakarta bombing on Tuesday, which killed 10 people and wounded 150. 

Indonesia, where tourism is a major industry, already was reeling from a drop in travel after a bombing that targeted Australian tourists on Bali killed 202 people last year. 

Officials at the Beijing meeting declared support for efforts to catch the Jakarta bombers and said that such attacks wouldn't derail efforts to repair damage to tourism from severe acute respiratory syndrome. 

“As a group, we will not allow terrorist activity to disrupt our plans,'' Lim Neo Chian, deputy chairman of the Singapore Tourism Board, said at a news conference.  

SARS, which killed more than 800 people worldwide, devastated travel as tourists and business people heeded warnings to avoid infected areas. 

In China, lost revenue this year due to SARS is expected to total 270 billion yuan (RM122bil), said Vice Premier Wu Yi, the official in charge of China's anti-SARS efforts. – AP  

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