Silkair cuts Myanmar flights as unrest hits demand

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SINGAPORE, Oct 13 (Reuters) Singapore Airlines' Silkair will reduce its flights to Myanmar due to a drop in tourism after last month's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests, a spokeswoman for the carrier said today.

Silkair usually flies to Yangon from Singapore twice a day -- or 14 times a week -- but has cut its scheduled flights to 12-13 a week and plans to scale back further to 10 next month, spokeswoman Renu Nair said.

''Leisure traffic (into Myanmar) is going to be down because of uncertainty about what's going on,'' she said.

Travel advisories by Western governments have resulted in a fall in bookings by European tourists, she added.

''For outbound flights out of Yangon, we are actually seeing more traffic,'' Nair said, though she could not immediately provide figures on passenger traffic in and out of Myanmar's biggest city.

Industry insiders say there has been a slide in foreign arrivals -- both businessmen and tourists -- since the protests against junta rule reached a climax at the end of September.

The manager of a Yangon-based travel agency said this week that most hotels had more than halved their rates, but occupancy levels were still below break-even point, a reflection of the international outrage at the crackdown on Buddhist monks and civilians in which at least 10 people were killed.

Even before the unrest, tourism was in a parlous state, a reflection of the dire economy and the calls by many, including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, for people to stay away to keep tourist dollars out of the ruling generals' pockets.

Separately, Myanmar's state-owned airline said on Friday it had suspended flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur because of a lack of insurance cover following the street demonstrations.

REUTERS SKB KP1030

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