CHESTER tour operators have been frantically contacting tourists stranded in South East Asia.
Travel agents have been in touch with Chester tourists caught in the disaster, some of whom have already returned home.
Bridge Street Thomas Cook manager Adrian Whitaker said a local couple were holidaying in The Maldives when the tidal wave struck but they are safe.
By Wednesday, the company had still not been able to get in touch with a lone male traveller on holiday in Thailand although he was believed to be all right.
Mr Whitaker said: 'We switched somebody on Boxing Day. They were going to Malaysia. They could possibly have gone because it wasn't that badly affected. We changed them to the Dominican Republic.
'We were offering people their money back and then they could pick where they liked.'
Three parties who are booked to go to The Maldives in late January are likely to be able to travel as normal although updates about the situation are being received all the time.
Mr Whitaker believes the US and the Caribbean will benefit from increased tourism this summer with holiday-makers expected to stay away due to the tsunami disaster zone.
Chester-based Elegant Resorts, which specialises in luxury holidays across the globe, set up a crisis management team on Boxing Day to handle its response to the disaster.
The company was relieved to dis-cover all clients in the affected areas of the Indian Ocean were safe and accounted for. Customers staying at its four hotels in the Maldives were transferred to alternative destinations to continue their holidays.
Hotel staff were said to have been 'absolutely brilliant' in putting their guests' welfare before their own, even though they are the ones who must live with the aftermath.
Geoff Moss, chairman of Elegant Resorts, said: 'We are enormously relieved that all Elegant Resorts clients are safe and extend our heartfelt sympathies to everyone affected by this disaster.'
Clients who have holidays booked until January 9, 2005, who are unable to travel to their chosen destination are being offered either a full refund or a change of destination subject to availability.
Elegant Resorts said its crisis management system was fine-tuned following September 11. The terrorist atrocity forced the company to 'think the unthinkable' in terms of being prepared for the worst case scenario.
Deva Travel on Bridge Street Row, Chester, opened its doors specially on Monday morning to make contact with customers holidaying in Thailand, Sri Lanka and The Maldives.
Travel agency director Eric Povey said: 'We have made contact with everyone and everybody is well. It was our first concern to ensure our customers were all right.'
Mr Povey is now making sure his customers return home safe and well.
Luxury tour operator ITC Classics of Canal Street, Chester, has also been busy making contact with clients who have all been accounted for and are safe and well.
A spokeswoman for the company said: 'ITC would like to extend their sympathy to all affected by the earthquake in the Indian Ocean.
'We have been in contact with all clients that are currently in resort to ensure that they are safe and comfortable.
'We are in regular contact with all our hotels and are pleased to confirm that the majority of hotels are fully operational and receiving clients.
'Airports are now open and full service has been resumed. We are confident that the majority of our clients will be able to continue with their original travel plans.
'However, it is with regret that we have to advise that clients will not be able to travel the following destinations and hotels:
Sri Lanka - all hotels; Soneva Gili Resort & Six Senses Spa, Maldives; Four Seasons Resort at Kuda Hura, Maldives; Taj Exotica, Maldives; One & Only Kanuhura, Maldives (water villas) and Rayavadee, Krabi, Thailand.'
The Foreign Office has issued an emergency number 0207 008 0000, for relatives and others who wish to check on relatives and friends affected by the tsunami or to pass on information about them.
Read the travel advice for the affected countries or call 0870 606 0290 for travel advice - for other inquiries call 0207 008 1500.