‘Japan crisis won’t hit Phuket tourism’: PTA

PHUKET: The Phuket Tourism Association (PTA) believes the crisis in Japan will not have serious effects on the island’s economy, though it has cautioned that numbers of visitors from affected areas are likely to fall.

Somboon Jirayus, president of the PTA, said the 9.0-Richter earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan would have psychological effects in the short term.

Numbers of tourists from towns and cities directly affected by the disaster are likely to fall, but in the longer term it will depend on how badly the Japanese economy is affected, he said.

At this time of year, the numbers of Japanese tourists tend to be small. Japanese tourism did drop off after the tsunami hit Phuket in December 2004, which coincided with the Japanese economic crisis, but numbers quickly recovered afterwards, he said.

Japanese tourists come in their greatest numbers in April and May, during the annual school break.

People in the tourism industry had not yet witnessed any hotel cancellations, he said.

The numbers of visitors booking trips to Japan has fallen, although flights to Japan were still leaving as normal, he said.

The PTA does not yet have a plan to hold activities in Japan to encourage tourism, although the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) was planning annual events there, he said.

Mr Somboon’s comments came as Japanese workers continued to battle to avoid nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 250km from the capital Tokyo.

Tourists visiting Thailand from Japan are being scanned for radiation contamination at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok as a precautionary measure.

At Phuket International Airport, tourists traveling to Japan were being offered free potassium iodide tablets to protect them from the effects of radiation.

The Foreign Ministry has urged people to postpone visits to Japan and said it was preparing to evacuate Thais from the country.

— Kom Chat Luek

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