12 May 2009

Swine flu fears hit NZ travel company bookings

1:25 pm on 12 May 2009

Tourism operators have reported up to 2,000 travel cancellations from Japan because of the fears of swine flu, the Inbound Tour Operators Council says.

On Monday, tour operator Southern Travel reported 700 Japanese bookings for travel in May and June had been cancelled in the past week, which accounted for about 75% of its bookings.

Chief executive Jacqui Walshe said tourists are still arriving from from other countries, including India, which put out severe warnings about travelling to New Zealand, and from Australia.

Southern Travel, which focuses on the Japanese market, had expected to break even for the year to the end of June, but now expects to lose money.

Inbound Tour Operators Council chief executive Paul Yo says the cancellations affecting Southern Travel and another company, Japan Travel Bureau, mainly involved school groups.

Mr Yo says Japah's Ministry of Education is more careful in sending students abroad following outbreaks such as SARS which caused havoc in Asia.

He says there are no reports of substantial cancellations from other types of groups.

Seven people in New Zealand are confirmed as having had the H1N1 virus.

The Ministry of Health says all seven contracted the flu while travelling in affected countries, all were treated with Tamiflu and all have fully recovered.