La Flora owner lashes out at govt, TAT

KHAO LAK: The Minister of Interior, ACM Kongsak Wantana, said yesterday that he was proud of the speed with which Thailand was recovering from last December’s tsunami.

Speaking at the reopening of the 200-million-baht La Flora Resort & Spa, which originally opened the day before the tsunami, the Minister said, “After inspecting many places [in Thailand] affected by the tsunami I can say that most have improved significantly, and faster than in other countries [hit by the waves].”

But Sompong Daowpiset, La Flora’s owner and Chairman of the Hago Group, the Thailand agent for Grohe plumbing products, had harsh words for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), accusing it of being unfair and of spending its tsunami rehabilitation budget everywhere except Khao Lak.

“We’re like the son of the mia noi [minor wife],” he told the Gazette. “There has been no promotion [of Khao Lak] and we have had to get back on our feet with no help.

“We still have accommodation available for tourists,” he added, pointing out that those who did come to stay at the resort seemed to enjoy it. “One couple originally wanted to stay here just one night but, as it turns out, they have been here more than eight nights now,” he said.

The resort, on six rai of land, has 70 rooms. K. Sompong said that all the pool villas and lower buildings were damaged by the tsunami. Only the 18 rooms on the third floor were undamaged.

Thanks to the height of the building only five people were killed in the hotel.

Adding to the misery of the tsunami were the looters who came after, K. Sompong said. “Our rooms were robbed because we had no guards to protect them – they were scared of ghosts, not only at my hotel but at all the hotels here.”

However, he continues to look on the bright side, he said. “I’m not scared of investing and I keep telling my staff that although this year may not be good, next year and the year after will be better.

“I have bought eight more rai next to the hotel and plan to build a spa and other facilities for our guests. Construction will start next week,” he said, adding, “Tsunamis don’t happen often. I believe the tourists will return.”

One thing that does concern him, he said, is that there is still no sign of a tsunami warning system being built for Khao Lak.

“I don’t see any warning system being built. The government said that it would be finished by December but I seen nothing now. A lot of travel agents ask about safety here.

“Grohe in Germany donated 2 million baht for the warning system in Khao Lak many months ago but we are still waiting,” he added.

The Minister commented, “We expect that the warning systems for every place [affected by the tsunami] will be finished in March, although Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra would like to see it all finished by this December.

“The reason it is taking so long is the large number of organizations that are involved,” he said.

Phuket News
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