Calm reaction in Phuket to Bali horror
PHUKET: Reactions in Phuket to Saturday’s horror in Kuta, Bali, have so far been measured, with tourists saying they plan to complete their vacations and travel companies, though worried, reporting business as usual. Maxine Pearson, 43, from London, told the Phuket Gazette, “It was sad, but it happens everywhere … it wouldn’t stop me from going to Bali, and it won’t stop me from staying in Thailand. And we don’t think it will make us go back to London any earlier.” Her companion, Steven Lee, 42, said, “It [the bomb] wasn’t aimed at foreigners as such – it was aimed at getting tourists to stop going there, so that the terrorists would be in a stronger bargaining position with the government.” Linda, 52, and Jim Vincent, 56, also from England, have visited Thailand three times. The couple said, “We feel really safe here. This time we are going to spend two weeks in Thailand. We have heard about the news, the bomb in Bali, so we are concerned about that because we actually plan to visit there after leaving Thailand.” Jeffrey Archer, 23, and Franziska Ghos, 29, from Switzerland, are first-time visitors to Thailand. They said, “We feel safe here. We heard about Bali but we are not worried about that because this is Thailand. It’s safe.” Aldo Caruso, 23, an Italian, who has spent the past two months in Thailand, confessed that he had not heard the news but said that, in any case, he feels safe in Thailand. Orachorn Saiseetong, Southern General Manager of SEA Tours Co, said, “Right now our customer [figures], both inbound and outbound, are still normal. There have been no cancellations so far. “However, I think it’s still too early to come to any conclusions. The situation may turn out to be good for Phuket, or it may be bad. We may see more tourists coming to Phuket, or it may be that tourists will stop traveling to this area for a while, as they did after September 11, when the numbers dropped by 25%.” Authorities and tourism figures in Phuket today rushed to reassure visitors that a bombing similar to the one that killed some 200 people in Bali’s Kuta entertainment district is extremely unlikely, but that extra measures are in any case being taken to boost visitors’ safety. Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi told the Gazette that he had already had discussions with the Commander of the Phuket Provincial Police and the superintendents of each police station in Phuket and had instructed them to beef up security, particularly in those areas most popular with tourists. “I plan to call another meeting with leaders in the entertainment business and managements of big department stores about how they can improve security. We will teach them how to check customers.” He added, “Phuket is safe for tourists and it is most unlikely that bad things will happen here, though we are making sure that we are not careless or complacent about the possibility.” Pattanapong Aikwanich, president of the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA), also discounted the likelihood of terrorist acts in Phuket, but admitted to being worried about the knock-on effect on tourism. “I don’t believe this represents an opportunity for Phuket. I think it will damage tourism across Southeast Asia. “September 11 had an effect on tourism in Phuket, though not too great an effect. But the latest terrorism in Bali will definitely affect us – 100%. Tourism is a very sensitive business; if people are not certain about safety they will not travel.” The PTA, he said, plans to write to members to ask for their help in keeping an eye on security in the entertainment areas and those areas popular with tourists. “I will discuss this with the Provincial Government so that the public and private sectors can work together. People can help by calling the police when they seen anyone behaving strangely. “Phuket has a lot of entertainment places and there are not enough police to look after them all, so local business people should help to take care of security themselves.”
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