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Asia's economic crisis is good news for travelers, who can take advantage of lower airfare and hotel rates

Financial crisis in Southeast Asia

Deals abound as tourism industry slumps under economic crunch

February 19, 1998
Web posted at: 11:57 a.m. EDT (1157 GMT)

(CNN) -- Southeast Asia has been in the grips of a financial crisis for months. The severe economic troubles have been bad for the region's tourism industry -- but good for many travelers.

In the face of the crunch, many regional travelers are staying home, and with fewer opportunities to make money, fewer business travelers from North America, Europe, and Australia are going to Asia. As a result, the tourism industry is engaged in a price war.

"Some major U.S. carriers are offering three- and four-night packages in cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Beijing -- round-trip airfare, four nights in a hotel for around $700 dollars, " says CNN business travel consultant Chris McGinnis. "You can't beat that."

The airlines are also shuffling schedules and shifting routes. United has canceled service to Manila and Guam. Northwest has stopped flying non-stop from Detroit to Seoul. But the airlines downplay the situation, saying many of the changes were in the works before the crisis.

Until last year, Southeast Asia was one of the world's economic hot spots, and business travel flourished. More hotels were built to keep up with the demand. But now, some lodgings -- both old and new -- are in jeopardy of closing, and many construction projects have been put on hold.

"I think hotels in these circumstances intensify their marketing efforts," says Thomas Oliver, chairman and CEO of Holiday Hospitality Corp. (formerly Holiday Inn Worldwide). "They work heavily with travel agents; they create new pricing and tour package programs to stimulate travel."

Southeast Asia's tourism woes are being felt throughout the Pacific region. Destinations from New Zealand to Hawaii to Canada have noticed a drop in visitors from Asia. Australia expects to be one of the hardest hit -- the country predicts a 33 percent plunge.

The sharp drops call for measures to bring in more business.

"So if a room is going to go empty or an airline seat is going to go empty, you are going to figure out a way from a promotional marketing standpoint that you can put people into those seats or those rooms and bring in some level of revenue," says Bill Hastings of the Pacific Asia Travel Association.

No one knows how long the Asian economic slump might last, but there is one issue everyone agrees on: If you've ever dreamed of traveling to Asia, there's no time like the present to make it a reality.

Based on a report from CNN's Business and Travel and Beyond. The segment appears weekdays on Early Edition at 7 AM (ET) and on Morning News at 10 AM (ET).

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