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From disaster to vacation destination

The tsunami that drowned more than 140,000 people also swept away billions of dollars in tourism revenue. Even resorts that weren't harmed by the waves are receiving cancellations well into the spring.

So how do you persuade visitors to vacation in the wake of a disaster?

Even as aid pours in to the Indian Ocean nations affected, and as residents begin trying to rebuild their lives, hotel managers, travel agencies and tourism directors are reaching out. They're inviting foreign tour operators to visit. They're hosting cruise line managers and travel writers.

And they're casting across the Internet, trying to convince would-be tourists that it's now safe, in Thailand or Sri Lanka or Malaysia. Come, see for yourself.

Following are excerpts from hotel, resort and tourism Web sites.

_ LANE DeGREGORY, Times Staff Writer

Allamanda Laguna Phuket, Luxury Suite Hotel, Bang Tao Beach, Thailand, www.allamanda.phuket.com:

Laguna Phuket . . . was spared the more serious damage . . . Nevertheless, a wave surge swept the beaches and inundated the ground floor rooms and some of the resort's restaurants.

Casualties were light and damage to property will be repaired as soon as possible. The beaches and lagoons will be cleared of debris and returned to full operation.

Of the five hotels at Laguna Phuket, Banyan Tree Phuket and Allamanda Laguna Phuket were unscathed apart from damage to a small beach restaurant operated by Banyan Tree. The Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket now has only six rooms remaining out of order, and Laguna Beach Resort has 14. The Dusit Laguna Resort suffered the worst and is working to repair the 30 beachfront rooms which were flooded in the tsunami's wake.

Situated right in the heart of Laguna Phuket, The Allamanda is a sublime place. Cool sea breezes and fresh air create an idyllic setting where the cares of everyday life can be put aside.

Akshaya India Tours & Travels Ltd., Maldives Island Tours, www.akshayaindia.com:

Maldives _ the last paradise.

Due to devastation caused by the Tidal Wave, we have temporarily stopped taking bookings for this destination. Further updates will be available once we have more information.

Inconvenience is regretted!

The below details about the Island are for your Information only!!!

Sparkling white sun-kissed beaches; crystal-clear lagoons studded with profusely colored corals; azure warm seas with an undisturbed, exotic marine life; palm-fringed islands; the pervading serenity; all of it summarized by the famous Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta on describing Maldives as "One of the wonders of the world."

Maldivian archipelago located 300 miles southwest of the southern tip of India . . . is a beautiful string of 1,190 low-lying coral islands scattered across the equator in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, giving us a rare glimpse of what is aptly described as a tropical paradise.

Sri Lanka Sees Return of Tourists by Summer, the International Herald Tribune, www.iht.com/articles/2005/01/04 /bloomberg/sxhotels.html:

The Dec. 26 tsunamis killed at least 30,000 people in the south and east, and about a quarter of Sri Lanka's 240 hotels are shut, the Tourism Ministry said. About 160 tourists and 52 hotel employees died, and 100 travelers are missing.

"In the short term we are getting cancellations, but we are confident tourists will come back," said Sanjeewa Anthony, general manager of finance at Jetwing, which operates 11 hotels. "They know it's a natural disaster which is unlikely to happen again."

The Sri Lankan government now expects 550,000 tourists this year, down from an initial estimate of 600,000 visitors. The Indian Ocean island, famous for its sandy white beaches and ancient Buddhist sites, attracted more than a half a million tourists last year.

"We will see a drop in tourists in January but by June-July, we hope to have all the hotels functioning again and tourists will most certainly return," said P. Ramanujam, the top civil servant at the Sri Lankan Tourism Ministry.

The official destination Web site for Seychelles, www.seychelles.com:

Vice President Joseph Belmont has issued a statement as Minister of Tourism today to reassure European Tour Operators that Seychelles is safe and sound for tourists.

Despite regular updates by the Seychelles Tourism Marketing Authority and Air Seychelles in the last few days to reassure operators that it is tourism business as usual in Seychelles, hoteliers have received reports of last-minute cancellations by anxious travelers.

On the other hand, we have also learned that several Seyschelles hotels have received new bookings from tourists who have been diverted from such destinations as Sri Lanka and the Maldives, areas which have been hit much more seriously than Seychelles by the Indonesian earthquake.

Only three hotels in Seychelles have closed operations temporarily to allow them time to bring their properties to full operational level _ they are: Paradise Sun, La Reserve and Vacanze Cote d'Or Lodge.

Vice President Belmont said: "We have been very upfront and truthful in our reports and assessment of the damage. The worst hit in Seychelles have been public infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and seaside private homes, and there has been only one death, that of a person who died while fishing."

Malaysian National News Agency: BERNAMA, www.bernama.com:

Despite the devastating tidal waves having lashed northwestern coastal areas of Peninsular Malaysia . . . the tourism sector remained abuzz in Langkawi.

Tourists have been coming in by the numbers and moving about the island and beaches.

The scenes and activities at hotels and resorts remained normal with hordes of tourists going about their holiday without any worry.

Kedah Culture, Arts and Tourism Committee Chairman Nawawi Ahmad, said the tourism sector in Langkawi was the least hit by the tsunami compared to other holiday destinations in the region.

Nawawi said all resorts and hotels were busy as ever while the electricity supply, communication and transport systems were unaffected . . .

He said there were rumors that many tourists had canceled their bookings but it is still early to authenticate the fact.

"Today alone, 200 Russian tourists arrived in Langkawi on a direct flight," he said.

Word for Word is an occasional feature excerpting passages of interest from books, magazines, Web sites and other sources. The text may be edited for space but the original spelling, grammar and punctuation are unchanged.

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