Tsunami Relief

Banyan Tree group and Qantas set up tsunami recovery funds

By: Devin Galaudet

On Jan. 5, Banyan Tree Group that owns and operates resorts throughout the regions desvasted by the recent tsunami devastated areas, confirmed its desire to aid efforts towards recovery and relief in Indonesia, Maldives, Phuket and Sri Lanka.

Acting as a separate channel, the Asian Tsunami Recovery Fund offers staff, guests, business partners and charitable contributors the ability to donate directly to communities in Indonesia, Maldives, Phuket and Sri Lanka. The Fund will be overseen by Banyan Tree’s managerial group that will then distribute money to those in need via local community organizations. The long-term plan of the fund is to provide “mid- to long-term” financial support for people in areas most affected by the recent Tsunami disaster.

“The communities where we have lived and worked for many years are grappling with the current reality,” observed Ho Kwon Ping, chairman of the Banyan Tree Group. “Relief funds are pouring in and international agencies are doing great work in providing for the most immediate needs. However, when the aid agencies finish their work and move on, there will be a whole range of new challenges for these communities.”

Mr. Ho that as a business that has a significant presence in the affected areas and having been fortunate enough to emerge from this disaster almost unscathed, he sees his company as being well placed to help the communities build their lives back.

“We now have a responsibility one to help those who strive to regain normalcy after such a tragedy,” Mr. Ho added.

In promotion of the fund, Banyan Tree Group staff members are making voluntary contributions of 5 percent of their January salary. The Green Imperative Fund (GIF) used as Banyan Tree’s continuing environmental conservation and community advancement efforts will temporarily redirect contributions, from January to March 2005, to the Asian Tsunami Recovery Fund. Banyan Tree has also pledged to match both employee and GIF donation dollar for dollar. Other donation efforts consist of seeking contributions from business, trade and media partners and an active appeal to the public and resort guests.

Another notable company committed to bringing relief to nations of tsunami disaster includes Qantas Airlines.

While continuing to run usual scheduled service, Qantas organized a 767 flight bringing stranded travelers from Phuket to Australia and operated similar relief flights to both Male in Maldives and Colombo in Sri Lanka transporting volunteer physicians and medical supplies free of charge.

Qantas also announced its intention to donate $1 million to UNICEF, CARE Australia, Oxfam and World Vision to aid in relief programs for the recent tragedy.

Geoff Dixon, the Chief Executive Officer of Qantas Airways, said Qantas had been in close contact with the Australian Government since the disaster occurred to offer assistance, and the airline remained in constant contact to provide whatever capacity and help is required.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and stand ready to provide any additional assistance required,” Mr. Dixon said.

Qantas Airways in 2004 celebrated 50 years of continuous flying between North America and Australia with more nonstop flights to Australia and New Zealand than any other carrier and provides connections from Los Angeles to Indonesia, India and South Africa via Sydney.

Arrangements are under way to receive donations in the form of credit card payments online.

[Editor's note: Travel Guard International and Travel Weekly have teamed up to provide up-to-the-minute news regarding tsunami relief efforts being provided by companies specific to the travel industry at www.travelcompaniescare.org.]