Tsunami warning in Pacific set to hit travel to Japan

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Shweta Bhanot | Mumbai | Updated: Mar 12 2011, 19:19pm hrs
The devastating earthquake leading to a tsunami warning across the Pacific basin, except the US and Canada, is expected to temporarily ground air travel to Japan, predominantly a business destination for Indian travellers, albeit for a short span. The warning was issued by the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and the bigger concern for the travel and tourism industry is the presence of other popular leisure tourist destinations on the warning list, including Indonesia and Mexico.

Leisure travel will take a bigger hit than business due to the natural calamity and something so unwanted at this point of time when the industry has been steering out of the last two years of economic recession, swine flu and recent unrest in certain parts of the world, said an industry expert.

He added that the outbound season from India starts soon (April) and would surely see a shift in the destination options taken by the Indian travellers. While Europe is the perennial favourite of the Indian travellers around this time due to the weather in the region, many also prefer to go to destinations in South East Asia region including countries like Indonesia.

The first industry to be hit in any calamity is travel and tourism, and for now, we are telling people to remain away from these countries, said Rajinder Rai, president, Travel Agents' Association of India (TAAI).

Last year, a total of 65,000 Indians went to Japan, including both business and leisure travellers. Leisure travel from India to Japan is very small, around 2,000-3,000 per year, said Rajesh Rateria, chairman-western region, TAAI. As per the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, the tsunami warning includes Hawaii and extends from Mexico down to South American countries on the Pacific countries. According to the centre countries on the warning list including Russia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Australia and New Zealand, earlier on its list have been withdrawn, according to the reports. Indian national carrier Air India said on Friday that its flight scheduled for Narita ( Tokyo) at 7 pm on Friday was cancelled as airport in Tokyo has been disrupted due to the massive earthquake which hit the coast of north-eastern Japan in the wee hours on Friday.