First Choice Holidays’ director of legal affairs Andrew John helped play a key role in steering the company through the immediate aftermath of the tsunami.
John, who is also a member of First Choice’s group management board, led First Choice’s rescue efforts, which involved flying staff and almost 1,000 customers out of the region.
John said: “I was woken up at 8am on Boxing Day and since then my main priority has been to ensure our customers and staff are safe and that the company has complied with all its obligations.”
As part of First Choice’s rescue mission, the company flew out 18 tonnes of bottled water to the Maldives in the planes that were sent to the country to fly customers back to the UK. The company has also donated £25,000 to the disaster relief fund.
Meanwhile, John played down the negative impact the Indian Ocean tsunami is likely to have on the tourism sector.
John told The Lawyer that the areas in which the infrastructure has been substantially destroyed will take some time to fully recover. He expects UK tourists to return to the region within the next 18 months, which should, in turn, benefit the local economies.
John said the businesses of some companies will be more seriously affected by the disaster, but added: “As far as First Choice is concerned, the disaster won’t have a material impact in 2005 because there are alternative long-haul destinations such as the Caribbean that are available to travellers.”
John also said that some of First Choice’s customers who have holidays booked in the region over the coming weeks are sticking to their original travel plans as they hope this will help with the recovery programme.
“There are a number of customers who want to continue to travel to the region as a gesture to the communities affected by the tsunami,” said John.