APEC Tourism officials meeting in Ayutthaya, Thailand, on 20-22 November 2001 have drawn attention to the underlying resilienceof travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region despite the impacts of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States of America. Officials noted the limited duration of the impact on the industry of previous events such as the Gulf War in 1991 and terrorist attacks in Luxor in 1997.
The APEC Tourism Working Group discussed tourism in the region in the aftermath of the attacks and consulted with international experts and private sector representatives from the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
They noted that, as a result of substitution effects and other factors, the immediate impacts varied widely across the region and between sectors of the tourism industry. Falls in tourism arrivals in the period since 11 September had ranked from a few percent in some member economies, such as Thailand, 10 percent in Singapore and up to 21 percent in Chinese Taipei.
Given an average direct contribution from tourism of over 5 percent of GDP across the APEC region, the effects of declines in tourist arrivals of this magnitude on Asia Pacific economies will be substantial.
Serious though these impacts are, especially for particular sectors and businesses within the region's tourism industry, it is anticipated that tourism flows will return to their long term growth path once consumer confidence in key source markets is re-established and probably within the year 2002.
The current situation emphasised the need for sound policy responses that should be developed in close consultation and partnership between public and private sectors. The meeting noted the importance of establishing monitoring mechanisms to identify the scope of the impact and of sharing information with APEC counterparts.
APEC TWG officials welcomed the implementation of measures to strengthen security, both in-flight and on the ground. Traveller safety remains a key component for a sustainable recovery in international tourism. Steps need to be taken to ensure that inconvenience experienced by travellers as a result of enhanced security measures is minimised through the application of technology and investment in supporting infrastructure.
A key lesson from the post 11 September situation is the absence of effective measures to assess the impact on the tourism industry. Data on the industry remains piecemeal, often available only after lengthy delays, and generally do not allow assessment of overall economic impacts on the industry or the economy as a whole. This highlighted the importance of the APEC Tourism Working Group programs such as the Tourism Information Network and the APEC International Centre for Sustainable Tourism. These aim to improve the quality and timeliness of tourism data and research, and to encourage the introduction of measurement instruments, such as tourism satellite accounts in member economies, to support analysis of the economic impacts of the industry.
In the meantime the media need to be kept informed of measures being implemented to ensure traveller security and to assure tourists of the fact that travel within the region is safe and continuing normally. The APEC Tourism Working Group also recognised the important role media and government advisory messages can help play in gaining the confidence of travellers.