Euro snow will not stall Phuket tourism

PHUKET: The heavy snowfalls that forced airports across Europe to close this week are only a short-term problem and will not dramatically affect Phuket tourism, say key local industry figures.

Suchart Hirankanokkul, president of the Thai Hotels Association (Southern Chapter), told the Gazette he didn’t think the airport closures would result in mass booking cancellations.

“The heavy snow in Europe may have a slight effect on hotels in Phuket as tourists may have to delay their arrivals,” he said.

“Most will not cancel their bookings, but just check-in late due to the incident. This is not as serious as the Iceland volcanic ash cloud [in April]. That had much a greater impact; flights stopped for weeks. I think this [the snowbound airports] will last only two or three days,” he added.

Bangornrat Shinaprayoon, director of the TAT South Region 4 Office in Phuket Town, agreed.

“I think this is just temporary. After the snow storms stop, the flights will start again. I do not think there will be a huge effect on tourism here. The flights are just delayed,” she said.

“It is different from the volcanic ash incident, where the airports were closed for a long time. This is just a short-term problem,” the director added.

Dr Sirichai Silapa-archa, chairman of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, had a brighter outlook on the current scenario.

“I think the airport closures in Europe is good news for us. I believe that once the airports reopen, more travelers will want to leave their home countries to escape the cold winter,” he said.

Of greater concern was the fall in bookings due to the stronger baht.

Bookings for December reflect about 70% occupancy, down from the 72% occupancy enjoyed in December last year.

“The number of bookings from Europe [this year] is quite low. European tourists have to pay more [to come to Thailand] because the economic situation in Europe is not good and the Thai baht is strong,” said Mr Suchart.

“Some tourists are booking for one week instead of two weeks, like they used to, causing an overall fall in the bookings [for December],” he explained

Director Bangornrat again agreed. “The strong baht has made their [holiday] expenses higher. They have to pay more to come here. That’s why many may put off their plans to come,” she said.

Bhuritt Maswongsa, vice-president of marketing at the Phuket Tourist Association, said a downturn in arrivals from Europe was largely compensated by increases in arrivals from several emerging source countries.

The industry analyst said China, Korea, Australia, Russia, Malaysia and Singapore were the main sources of inbound tourists.

He also listed Australia, China, Russia, Korea, the Middle East and India as the fastest-growing markets, in that order.

The local government needs to do more to ensure tourists that good evacuation procedures are in place to carry out a tsunami evacuation in the unlikely event one were to become necessary, he added..

This was important because media reports of predictions, attributed to Dr Smith Dhammasaroja and a Bangkok-based astrologer, that a tsunami would strike the island on December 30 had harmed tourist confidence, he said.

“Of course nobody can predict a tsunami, but we have to do better public relations to assure people that we are prepared if one does strike,” he said.

— Janpen Upatising & Stephen Fein

Phuket News
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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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