11,000 hotel rooms for tsunami relatives “difficult to find’

PHUKET: (Gazette/The Nation) The Phuket Tourist Association (PTA) is unsure whether its member hotels will be able to provide the 11,000 hotel rooms requested by the government to accommodate family members of tsunami victims expected to attend the first-year memorial services in December.

The official number of tsunami dead in Phuket was 279, with 620 reported missing. The disaster claimed the lives of some 5,400 people in Thailand, with about 3,000 more reported missing.

Under the plan, one relative of each victim – as many as 2,400 people, but 3,000 less than the official death toll and another 3,000 less than those posted as missing – and around 7,000 people injured in the disaster would be invited to stay as “guests of the government” in rooms at hotels classified as “3-stars or higher”.

The guests will be offered free return air tickets and two nights’ – December 26 and 27 – accommodation. The government will, reportedly, reimburse the hotels but the amount of the reimbursement and other details were still being decided by Cabinet, said PTA President Pattanapong Aikwanich.

Many rooms will also be made available for visiting dignitaries, including three heads of state, four presidents, 30 ministers and 64 other VIPs.

The island has a total of about 27,000 rooms altogether, but the number of rooms in the 3-star and up category is only a fraction of that.

K. Pattanapong said it might be difficult to find the required number of rooms as the anniversary comes at a time when occupancy begins to peak.

“The period between Christmas and the New Year is when tourists start coming back, and the hotels have an allotment system with travel agents who have already booked many rooms,” he said.

“Even if such a large number of rooms could found, the hotels have no guarantee that the guests would actually turn up and stay in them. The PTA can only ask for cooperation from its member hotels and the travel agencies with which they do business, and cannot force them to do anything,” he added.

“We need to discuss this further, with both the government and the travel agencies,” he said.

Phuket News
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