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29 Dec, 2004

Tsunami Update 7: Situation Stabilises as Clean-Up Gets Under Way

The situation is stabilising in Thailand where clean-up, evacuation and relief efforts are proceeding smoothly.

The situation is stabilising in Thailand where clean-up, evacuation and relief efforts are proceeding smoothly. The industry is beginning to focus on the doing-business aspects and initiating relief efforts. This dispatch contains two statements on cancellation charges and policies by the Association of Thai Travel Agents and Thai Hotels Association, as well as Banyan Tree group. It also includes the latest appeals, updates and announcements from Myanmar, Thai Airways, Qantas, Intrepid Travel, Davina Lagoona in Kerala and Patong Beach Lodge in Phuket. Bill Owen, General Manager of Oriental Leisure in Phuket, also shares some poignant personal reflections.



FROM DR. KLAUS FRANK, TMS – MESSEN AUSTELLUNGEN KONGRESSE, GERMANY: Thank you for all the information on the terrible flood. Our company and myself have transfered 3500 Euro to Welthungerhilfe. Next week we are operating two tourism fairs in Chemnitz and Mannheim. In both events we will motivate visitors and exhibitors to give money to help. We feel that it is necessary too to inform the public that not the whole of East Asia is devastated. The media here, concentrating on destroyed areas, encourages such an impression. Fortunately many reports are very positive on the huge help tourist are given by Thai people and officials. We organise two press conferences next week to introduce our fairs. We will try to inform there that large touristic areas in Thailand and other countries are fully operational. All information to back such a statement is welcomed. Thank you again for the fantastic network you developed. In such a crisis, its worth cannot be overestimated.



Cancellations and related charges, 29th December 2004

Attention: All ATTA and THA Members,

Please be advised that in keeping with the meaning and intent of current Government Policies concerning the Tidal Wave Calamity in the South of Thailand, all members are asked to use their discretion in respect of cancellation charges.

It is recognised that under normal circumstances Tour Agents and Hotels levy charges on deposits and cancellations made at short notice. However the catastrophic events of the past few days which has brought about an enormous loss of life, injuries and a huge number of ‘displaced’ tourists are worthy of special considerations.

Although this highly distressing event was the result of natural causes, the Government is doing all it can to preserve the integrity and image of Thailand as a Holiday location. This is being implemented through widespread emergency measures and the absorbing of transportation and medical costs for all the ‘displaced’ tourists.

The undersigned are therefore appealing to all respective members of the THA and ATTA to play their part in repairing the damage caused to Thailand’s image by not claiming for cancellations in respect of paid deposits and related cancellation charges.

Your understanding and cooperation in this respect will be greatly appreciated by all concerned. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.



Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts has, to date, received numerous enquires from Travel Agents, Tour Operators and independent travellers on the situation at the various resorts.

Guests have expressed concern over the well being of our staff. Many of them have confirmed with us that they will travel to the resorts as planned. Some of our guests have asked that we offer them an alternative travel arrangement. We are doing as much as possible to accommodate their requests.

We wish to highlight our general policy with regards to request for postponement and cancellation.

Properties Directly Affected by Tsunami

Banyan Tree Phuket and Allamanda Laguna Phuket in Thailand and Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and Angsana Maldives Ihuru are fully operational now despite being in affected areas. Deer Park Hotel in Sri Lanka is not affected at all. Many of our guests are traveling to the resorts as planned.

Among those who wish to change their travel plans, more than 90 per cent of them have agreed to a postponement of their stay. The Banyan Tree Group has offered them up to a 7-month grace to make their visit. Our guests have accepted this offer.

Guests also have the option to visit the resort that they have made a booking at or transfer the booking to any of the other resorts that the company owns and manages.

Where guests are unable to take up the offer for a deferment of stay, we will assess their request for cancellation on a case-by-case basis. This assessment is limited to guests who have made bookings at the Banyan Tree Group’s resorts situated in areas directly affected by Tsunami, such as Phuket, Maldives and Sri Lanka. We will give each request our full consideration.

Properties Not Directly Affected by Tsunami

For resorts in areas that are not directly affected by Tsunami, such as Banyan Tree Bangkok, Banyan Tree Bintan and Banyan Tree Seychelles, we offer guests up to a 3-month grace to make a visit. They could also opt for a transfer to another resort under the same brand name.

Shortening of Trip

In total, we have had less than 5 per cent of guests who have shortened their visit to Banyan Tree resorts in the affected areas.

For those who have paid upfront, we offered them the option of using up their remaining nights’ stay in any Banyan Tree resort over the next three to seven months. Where guests had not prepaid, we did not charge them for the remaining nights that they did not use up.

There has yet to be request for a full refund.



Although the earthquake was felt all over Myanmar, damage was minimal. Throughout the southern provinces of Myanmar, near Yangon, several buildings collapsed as a result.

The coastal areas of the Ayeyarwaddy Division, south-west of Yangon, were hit by tidal waves, and The New Light of Myanmar reported on 28 December that 17 villages were destroyed, making 200 people homeless. 34 people were killed, 45 injured and 25 missing.

There are no reports of damage or loss of lives in the other coastal areas. The 3 main beach destinations for tourists – Ngwe Saung Beach, Chaungtha and Ngapali Beach reported unusual tidal activity on Sunday and Monday, however no damage or immediate danger occurred to residents and visitors.

The Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board would like to stress that there is no damage to the main tourism destinations. The hotel, airline and transport industry operated normally throughout Sunday 26 December upto today. Our heart goes out to all of our colleagues, staff, guests, friends and family who are more directly involved in this disaster!



By the grace of God, we are safe and are looking forward to restoring all the operations as soon as possible. We are grateful for all the concern that you have had for our safety and our thoughts are with those who have suffered more than us.

We should be operational by 10th January 2005 but to be sure, we will accept arrivals from 20th January 2005. In the meantime we request you to cancel all bookings until the 19th of January 2005 at The Horizon Beach Resort.

Patong Beach Lodge is fully operational and the waves did not have any effect here as its on the back road and currently occupied by its own share of guests and that of Horizon as well. We thank you for all the support and understanding.



ALL guests are safe and well and the hotel was not affected by the Tsunami, although a little further down the coast people have been less lucky. The hotel was protected by large sand bar between the sea and hotel. Please post a message on your site for those who may be trying to reach friends and family. If there are any other sites we can write to please let me know. Your newsletter has been very helpful, thank you.



Intrepid launches Asian Tsunami Appeal

Australian-based small group adventure operator, Intrepid Travel is launching an appeal in the wake of the destructive earthquake and tsunami in Asia. Our appeal will support the work of Medecins Sans Frontieres and PLAN in the affected areas.

Intrepid will match all donations dollar for dollar (for the first AU$50,000 received) to The Intrepid Foundation and funds will be split equally between the work of these 2 organisations. Intrepid Travel will fund any administration costs.

Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), has mobilised assessment teams in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India as well as other affected countries to determine immediate medical and relief needs. Funds raised will help Medicins Sans Frontiers assess areas where populations are most vulnerable and in greatest need of immediate medical help. The teams will then establish a base of operation to support local health structures or set up clinics from which to provide medical care. The teams will also establish water sanitation facilities and nutritional clinics where necessary.

Medecins Sans Frontiers’ biggest challenge is to provide clean drinking water and contain the disease and epidemics, which inevitably result from a catastrophe of these proportions. For more information on MSF’s work visit www.msf.org.au

Plan is part of a major disaster-response program in Sri Lanka, which is amoungst the worst affected countries. Thousands of people are dead – many of them children. More than one million people have also been left homeless. Funds raised will be used to support both short and long-term emergency relief and rehabilitation, including much needed food, clothing, housing and fresh water. Once the more immediate needs are met, PLAN’s focus will move to restoration of family livelihood.

Plan is an international child centred community development organisation working in over 60 countries. Plan has no religious or political affiliation. For more information on Plan’s work visit www.plan.org.au Donations can be made through the Intrepid Foundation by downloading a donation form from www.intrepidtravel.com/appeal and writing ‘Asian Tsunami Appeal’ on the form.

Intrepid will match all donations made through the Intrepid Foundation dollar for dollar (for the first AU$50,000 received) and will split the funds raised between MSF and Plan. For more information and to download a donation form, please visit www.intrepidtravel.com/appeal



Today (29 December 2004) at 0930 hours, Mr. Kanok Abhiradee, President of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited, with members of THAI’s Management and THAI employees cooperatively packed shipments of emergency supplies, food, water, and clothing donated by the general public, entertainment industry, THAI employees, THAI Employees Association, and THAI Employees Union.

The emergency aid shipment will be transported on board THAI’s flights to Phuket on the route Bangkok-Phuket at 10 departing flights and Phuket-Bangkok at 19 return flights. As for flights routed to Krabi, shipments will be sent on the route Bangkok-Krabi at 5 departing flights and on the route Krabi-Bangkok at 5 return flights.

Those wishing to provide donations may contribute in the form of clothes, dry or canned food, drinking water, and necessary personal items for those affected by the tidal wave in Southern Thailand. Donors may contact THAI’s Security Office on a 24 hour basis or by calling Tel. (02) 545-2535 to 7 during business hours. Those making donations are requested to provide an itemized list of goods donated on all boxes in order to facilitate separation and categorizing of donated items.



SYDNEY, 29 December 2004: Qantas said today that in the wake of the earthquake and series of tsunamis that have devastated South East Asia, it had:

<> continued to operate its daily 747 services to Bangkok, and its regular services to Indonesia and India;

<> sent Qantas staff to Phuket to assist with relief efforts;

<> operated a special 767 flight to Phuket at 1100 today, to bring travellers home to Australia. This flight will accept customers holding any ticket, regardless of which airline they have booked with, and will depart Phuket at 1840 local time, flying non-stop to Sydney and arriving at 0745 tomorrow. Qantas General Manager of Aviation Health Services, Dr Ion Morrison, and Qantas Nurse Robyn Noble travelled on today’s flight to Phuket to assist the injured on the ground and on the return flight;

<> arranged to operate a special relief flight to Male in The Maldives and Colombo in Sri Lanka tomorrow, carrying medical teams and equipment to both Male and Colombo and carrying passengers back to Australia from Colombo;

<> offered free of charge travel to a team of volunteer doctors from Melbourne to Colombo on tomorrow’s flight;

<> provided full refunds without penalty for customers booked on Qantas flights and/or travelling on Qantas Holidays packages to the affected areas departing up to 31 January, as well as offering the option of deferring travel or changing to an alternative destination without penalty;

<> flown medical and charitable supplies free of charge; and;

<> announced that it would donate a total of $1 million to UNICEF, CARE Australia, Oxfam and World Vision to assist with their disaster relief efforts.

The Chief Executive Officer of Qantas, Geoff Dixon, said Qantas had been in close contact with the Australian Government since the disaster occurred to offer assistance, and the airline remained in constant contact to provide whatever capacity and help is required. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and stand ready to provide any additional assistance required,” Mr Dixon said.



International resort chain, Club Med, today announced that all its guests and employees have been safely airlifted out of the immediate areas affected by the tsunami. Club Med guests and employees in its three resorts in the affected region – Phuket in Thailand and on the islands of Kani and Faru in the Maldives – were immediately evacuated through the coordinated efforts of the Club Med crisis teams working from its regional office in Singapore and headquarters in Paris, together with the staff at the affected resorts.

There were over a thousand international guests from Asia-Pacific and Europe spread out across the three resorts over the festive weekend but all are reported safe and accounted for, although a few sustained minor injuries. There was, however, the unfortunate fatality of one Club Med employee as a result of the tsunami which hit Phuket.

“We are very thankful that our guests and employees have been spared from this tragedy and we are relieved to be able to send them home to the safety of their respective countries in good health in such short time, given the difficulty of obtaining air and ground transportation in the affected areas,” said Club Med’s Asia Pacific President and CEO, Mr. Joel Tiphonnet.

“We are nevertheless deeply saddened by the loss of a long-serving employee in the Phuket resort and have informed the family of the deceased. The tsunami that devastated the region has left Club Med with a profound sense of sadness in view of the tremendous loss and suffering caused by it and we offer our condolences to the families of the victims throughout the region and the world,” added Tiphonnet.

The resorts on the three islands suffered structural damage and the extent of damages is currently being evaluated. Meanwhile, bookings to these resorts will be cancelled or offered alternative destinations.



Phuket in fact, with the exception of bad damage and deaths on Patong beach and relatively minor damage else where – came off comparatively lightly. All sevices and infrastructure on the island running perfectly. Obviously there has been damage to several major resort hotels – however after closer examination – not as extensively as first thought. And we are sure that within a few weeks – all will be back to comparative normality here.

However, Khao Lak as well as the outer islands such as Phi Phi and others – have however been totally destroyed with, I fear, a large death toll – both of tourists and locals alike.

Yesterday I took a team of guides and staff, as well as Heather my daughter to assist in the emergency in Takua Pa – a small town 180kms north of Phuket – (the main centre for the evacuation of Khao Lak). Much in the realms of a war zone, evacuation by helicopters, fleets of ambulances, trucks, buses etc. All carrying the 1000’s of injured back to Phuket and some onward to Bangkok.

Its was however amazing to see both the resilience, total caring and compassion of the local Thai people, who have literally been working around the clock since this has happened – helping and caring for the 1000’s of tourists who have been either injured, or more unfortunately, in many cases still missing the families and friends. Heather and Chris, my kids, staff and all guides have also been incredible. All working at hospitals and emergency centres for the past 3 days. Was amazed to see Chris aged 13 sitting at 11pm at night in front of a computer at the emergency centre in Phuket town – entering and searching data – surrounded by tourists who were trying desperately to locate their families and friends.

Khun Omar also as usual out there doing here thing, first day cooking at the local police station, then the next, with Khun Eed our acountant cooking friend rice and food for evacuees and emergency staff and workers and more recently at the Town Hall acting as translator and co-ordinator of guides and other staff. Khun Prasert yesterday with friends and others went to Khao Lak to deliver clothing and other emergnecy supplies – Our guides all also out there helping, assisting, and translating all over the island. I am very proud of them all.

Business-wise and financially, is another story. Still too early and too busy to really consider the consequences. However, after joining the business only 9 months ago, Khun Worapot, our MD, and myself had realised.. we had made it at last! With almost 1,000,000 US$ worth of business had been confirmed for the next 3 months. We’d made it after all 9 months of real hard work! Now 3 days later with cancellations coming in daily, we currently have no idea what will happen! Such are the trials of life I guess.

However we still all have a roof over our heads, a little more compassion and humility and now however certainly time to take stock and think what /where we go from here. However it is certainly business as usual in some ways – and whilst we are still assisting where we can with the aid work, we are now however focusing on local markets and short term trying to move all current bookings to Chiangmai and other unaffected destinations, as well as having worked on new and exciting products, team building and group adventure programmes in other parts of the country.

We have received literally 100s of emails from all parts of the world, and thus thank all friends and colleagues for their support, and looking forward to hearing from them again soon

At a time of such crisis, it certainly gives us all strength to know we have such good faithful friends and partners. With thanks and best regards from us all here in Phuket.


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