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Job losses mounting, but recovery on track

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Job losses mounting, but recovery on track | Thaiger

PHUKET: Latest figures indicate that the island’s recovery from the negative effects of Sars is on course but that more suffering may lie ahead before good times return. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) predicts that by December, total visitor numbers may be only slightly down on last year. Paradoxically, small businesses and workers continue to feel the after-effects of the Sars scare. The Phuket Social Security Office (PSSO) reported that 3,982 workers lost their jobs in June – a new monthly high that took the tally of jobs lopped so far this year to 18,986. Eighty businesses reported closing their doors in June, compared with six in June 2002, and 104 in May this year. Many business closures and lay-offs still go unreported, the PSSO acknowledges. Job cuts and closures are likely to continue until September or October when, in readiness for the high season beginning on November 1, hotels are expected to resume hiring. The arrival of the Hilton hotel management chain in October and the opening of the large Central shopping center in February give cause for optimism that a recovery can be sustained and the jobless total lowered. Between January and June this year, tourist figures for Phuket sagged to 1.45 million, down by 15% on the 1.7 million visitors in the same period of 2002, the TAT says. Visitors for the whole of 2002 totaled some 4 million for Phuket, 5.31% more than in 2001 – despite the Bali bombing in October. A growth rate of 8%-10% is more typical. Tourists spent about 72 billion baht on the island in 2002. Anupharp Thirarath, Director of the local office of the TAT, told the Gazette, “The total number of people visiting Phuket by the end of this year might be a little less than last year. “However, we have to wait and see. The second half may get better.” Juthamas Siriwan, Governor of the TAT, said the push to replace stay-at-home foreign tourists with Thais exploring their own country had been successful with earnings on domestic tourism up by 20% this year. Foreign tourist numbers for 2003 for Thailand should be down by only 2% or 3%, she added.

 

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