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Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008

Travel agents shrug off Thai turmoil

Staff writer

JTB Corp. and H.I.S. Co., the nation's two largest travel agencies, said Wednesday that losses from canceled package tours to Thailand, where antigovernment protesters took control of two airports in the capital, haven't been bad because it isn't peak season yet.

Late November and early December are "a slow season for us, so the impact is insignificant," JTB spokesman Yasoji Kato said. Business usually peaks during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Kato and H.I.S. official Manabu Shimizu both said their companies didn't have any estimates for losses caused by Thailand-related cancellations.

The takeovers have prevented Japan Airlines Corp., All Nippon Airways Co., Thai Airways and other carriers from using two Bangkok airports — Suvarnabhumi International Airport and domestic-only Don Muang — since Nov. 26.

But leaders in the ruling People Power Party have said they intend to rebuild the government under another party name and hold a legislative session Monday to select a prime minister, it was reported.

Airlines will soon be able to resume flights as protesters began exiting Suvarnabhumi airport Wednesday.

The two travel agencies each said that about 400 of their customers were stranded in Thailand around the end of November.

Kato of JTB said that had dropped to 30 by Tuesday after JAL, ANA and Thai Airways began using U-Tapao, a military airport 120 km south of Bangkok. H.I.S. did not know how many customers remained stuck, Shimizu said.

"Thailand is one of the popular holiday destinations, so we wish the airports would open soon," Kato said.

The travel agencies also said the attacks in Mumbai did not affect their package-tour business because none of their customers was in the bustling business capital at the time of the attacks and there were no tours planned.

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The Japan Times

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