Travel agents visiting areas hit by tsunamis

As humanitarian aid continues to arrive in the areas of Southeast Asia affected by the tsunami, travel agency officials have begun to arrive on the scene. Indeed, many representatives of Greece’s major travel agencies are on their way to Phuket in Thailand and other resorts struck by the fatal tsunami to determine the extent of damage to tourism infrastructure. However, most Greek travelers who had been planning to visit Southeast Asia either canceled their holidays or selected an alternative destination far away from the disaster area. «I believe that things in Phuket will quickly return to normal. In about a month, at the most, everything will be as before,» the managing director of Cel Tours, Panayiotis Soulis, told Kathimerini. «The damage affected the ancillary sections of most hotels or cheap constructions. Repairs are already under way in most hotels. It is perhaps only the area of Khao Lak – which was very badly affected – that will be unable to function as a tourist resort again,» Soulis said. «Already, our Thailand representatives say that life is quickly returning to normal. However, I am off to Phuket myself to assess the situation for myself,» he added. Most Greeks who had planned holidays to Phuket and other areas affected by the tsunami either canceled their trips or changed destination. «Many chose other regions such as northern Thailand, Pattaya and Bali,» Soulis said. «We already have an idea of the extent of the damage from our local representatives but we are planning investigative trips to allow us to amend our schedules,» sales director of Versus Travel Kiki Legatou said. «Sales for holiday packages to affected areas have been temporarily frozen,» she said. «With some destinations, there was no choice – for example, Sri Lanka’s Hambanthota has been virtually wiped off the map. Things are going to be difficult for a while to allow travelers to get over the psychological shock of incidents witnessed on television. However, it remains the priority of all travel agencies that the traveler is safe. No agency would send them somewhere where this was not guaranteed,» she said.