PHUKET: The Bali bombing has affected Phuket tourism but the situation will improve after Christmas, a leading figure in the industry said today. Opas Netraumpai, Vice President of the Thailand Incentive Convention Association (TICA) and Managing Director of Club Andaman Beach Resort, said there were three stages to reactions. The first, about a week after the bombing, left Phuket hotels full with people who had transferred their holidays from Bali. Stage Two came when Australia and other governments issued warnings about Phuket to their nationals. The calls led to some cancelations, particularly among seminar groups. “They are a lot more sensitive than package groups because companies pay for their employees to go to seminars, so if anything is uncertain they just drop out.” Now, in Stage Three, he said, cancelations were likely before Christmas. “However, I believe that after Christmas the situation will be better because we have been told by tour agents that there are unlikely to be further cancelations,” he said. “Compared with last year at the same time – in the wake of September 11 – I would say Phuket tourism is still healthy.” He added that TICA was trying to bring convention groups to Phuket and that a World Boy Scout convention could attract 30,000 people in December, with 8,000 already booked. Anupharp Thirarath, Director of the local Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) branch said, “We can confirm that Phuket is still safe for tourists. Our statistics show that the number of tourists in the past six months is up by 6% compared with last year.” Phuket’s tourism industry players are keen to boost travel from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and from Europe. “If we could bring in even a small percentage [of the Asean population] it will help our tourism a lot,” said K. Opas. More work was needed on regional air ticket pricing and easier access between countries first, he added. Panu Masirat, Vice-President of Marketing for the Phuket Tourist Association, said that about 800,000 British tourists come to Thailand each year, with 200,000 of those making Phuket their destination. He said he expects that number to increase to 300,000 next year. He also said that about 240,000 French tourists come to Thailand a year, with about 100,000 coming to Phuket.
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