After a shocking slump in travel levels last year, ebullient Southeast Asian country representatives at an international fair in Berlin say they are expecting a major turn-around in Asian tourism fortunes for 2004.
More than 10,000 exhibitors - a record number - from 178 countries are in Berlin for this year's International Tourism Bourse (ITB). Many come from Asia. Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia. Brunei, Vietnam, China and India all have prominent stands in ITB.
"Naturally the Madrid bombing massacre last Thursday shocked us all," said Sam Appadurai, the Frankfurt-based director of Malaysia's Tourism Promotion Board. "It's a real tragedy and all sensible people condemn the attack."
Appadurai, however, does not believe this latest terrorist outrage will have negative consequences for global tourism. "It's not as if holiday resorts were deliberately targeted," he said.
Most other Southeast Asian tourist chiefs have reacted in similar vein, saying history has shown that appalling as such terrorist acts are they tend to be forgotten within a few months, as people in the affected areas tried "getting on with their lives."
Appadurai said that while Malaysia's tourist numbers sagged last year because of the fear of SARS there were now signs of "robust recovery."
"January saw a record number of tourist arrivals in the country" he told IPS. "We attracted 1.4 million people, with the main bulk coming from Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, and also from China and India in greater Asia.
China and India had become stable tourist source markets, said Appadurai when forecasting that "big increases" were anticipated from these two countries.
Also important had been the growth in tourist arrivals from the Middle East in recent years.
"It's not just Saudi Arabia, but also countries like the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait," he explained. Malaysia had extended...