Hoteliers cautiously optimistic

PHUKET: Local hotel operators remain guardedly optimistic that the bloodless military coup staged in Bangkok last night will have a limited impact on Phuket tourism industry, provided that events do not turn violent.

Wolfgang Meusberger, General Manager of the Holiday Inn in Patong, this morning told the Gazette, “I think it all depends what happens over the next 48 hours. At this moment customers are inquiring about the situation, so we are advising them at this moment that it is appropriate or okay to travel to Phuket. But we also ask them to check the travel advisories issued by their countries if they are not sure what to do.

“We are receiving a flood of inquiries from customers about what is going on, so we have prepared an information letter to the customers…I personally think that if the situation remains calm and quiet that the impact will be very limited. But if the situation deteriorates and there is violence in the streets then there would be a serious impact on tourism.”

Mr Meusberger said there had not been a single cancellation after the terrorist bombings in Haad Yai and that as of this morning he was not aware of any travel advisories warning against travel to Phuket.

“Of course we are all very concerned about the situation in the Deep South, especially because in the last bombings they were really targeting tourist destinations.”

“Hotel managers needs to be very open with customers at times like this, giving them as much information as possible so that they can make up their own minds,” he said, adding that the hotel and put out copies of how the coup developed and distributed to all guest rooms.

“It’s coup number 19 over the past 70 years, so it’s not the first time we have had it – so let’s hope for the best,” he said.

Rudi Scherb, General Manager of the Movenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach, told the Gazette that he has little fear that yesterday’s coup d’etat will affect tourism in Phuket.

“[Movenpick] believes that this is a ‘family affair’, that is, it affects Thailand’s politics only,” said Mr Scherb.

“We, those in the Thai tourism industry, have been fortunate to have a very good tourism authority in Thailand – as well as holiday wholesalers – who have been able to keep politics separate from tourism.

“Phuket is fortunate to have direct flights from other destinations that bypass, obviously, Bangkok so any effect – even though the airport in Bangkok is open and functioning normally – would be minimal,” he added.

Mr Scherb, who has worked in Thailand for four years, sounded only one note of concern. “As long as the travel advisories [issued by the foreign offices of other countries] are responsible and don’t get the situation out of proportion, then we should be ok.

“Anyway, if you ask people in Phuket what’s going on [in the rest of Thailand], they don’t know because they don’t read the newspapers – and we’d like to keep it that way; they are on vacation, after all,” he commented.

“My feeling is that most tourists [in Phuket] won’t really know what’s happening 90 minutes flying time from Phuket. It’s ‘business as usual’, and, as long as it stays a family affair, tourists won’t be affected.”

Bill Barnett, Managing Director of C9 Hotelworks, said that it was business as usual at his firm, which is overseeing development of several mixed-use residential and hotel projects on the island for overseas investors, including LaSalle Investment Management and Kingdom Hotel Investments out of Dubai.

“We’ve spoken to all to our overseas clients today, and they are all staying the course. These guys are used to this – they understand the climate and see the big picture. There have been no glitches. People aren’t calling in and questioning their investments…We have a number of projects that are at critical decision-making stages and there have been no glitches so far. Some of them have even said that what is going on might be a good thing. For business its a bit of a non-event, but it’s a media feeding-frenzy. It’s Thailand today, Iraq tomorrow, Lebanon the next day.

“Most people who are buying residential property in Phuket are Asia-friendly…I think the basic attitude is that the situation is one of short-term pain for long-term gain,” he said.

“The only question people raise, and rightly so, is that if there is a change in government what is the new government’s policy going to be towards foreign investment. Is it going to be pro-business or not. But it’s still early.”

Phuket News

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