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Airlines voice confidence in Phuket Airport emergency evacuation measures

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Airlines voice confidence in Phuket Airport emergency evacuation measures | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Following the evacuation of Phuket International Airport after the 8.6-Richter earthquake on April 11, several airlines on Friday expressed their confidence in how officials handle the emergency exercise.

At a press conference at the airport chaired by Airport Director Prathuang Sornkham, Thai Airways representative Jittrapong Narongwanich said all airlines that use Phuket Airport remain confident in the evacuation procedures following the April 11 evacuation.

Thanaporn Taebunpakul, representing the Association of European Airlines in Phuket, also confirmed that no scheduled flights from Europe had been canceled since the April 11 tsunami scare.

Member airlines have done a good job in maintaining tourist confidence in Phuket by assuring travellers that effective evacuation measures were in place in case of an emergency, she said.

Also attending the press conference were representatives from several of the 41 airlines that operate at the airport, as well as the management at airport flight control center, run by Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Limited (Aerothai).

Airport Director Prathuang told the press that about 1,500 passengers were evacuated to the designated evacuation zone at the Phuket Air Catering facility, located 1,400 meters from the main terminal.

The evacuation took about 45 minutes, he said.

“No one was injured and all their belongings were safe. Our work impressed the passengers a great deal,” said Mr Prathuang.

The Phuket Air Catering facility sits 20 meters above sea level and is considerably higher than the airfield.

The evacuation was not without problems, however. The breakdown in mobile phone networks was identified as the single biggest obstacle, as officials were able to relay information only by two-way radio.

The evacuation order set in motion an automatic three-hour closure of the airport, causing a traffic jam at the entrance as vehicles were not allowed entry. There was confusion among many arriving passengers who were unaware of the earthquake, the tsunami evacuation issued or the airport’s subsequent closure, Mr Prathuang said.

Mr Prathuang cited training as the reason the evacuation was an overall success.

“We hold an evacuation drill every year, which was why everything went smoothly on April 11. Every airline is confident in our evacuation procedures and no scheduled flights have been canceled. Actually, passenger traffic is up 10 per cent over the same period last year and the number of flights is up three per cent,” he said.

The evacuation protocol calls for all planes capable of taking off do so as soon as possible after a tsunami warning is issued. This is because the airfield is designated as within a tsunami-risk zone. The west end of the airfield was covered with debris after the 2004 tsunami disaster, but was not inundated by the waves.

Also, during an evacuation all inbound flight are diverted to other airports in the region until the warning is rescinded and the situation returns to normal. Many of the aircraft are re-routed to Krabi Airport or Surat Thani Airport, while others are ordered to land at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Mr Prathuang explained.

He added that the main terminal at Phuket Airport was built 30 years ago under a design that would allow it withstand damage in the event of an earthquake of up to 5.0 magnitude centered under the airfield.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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