PHUKET: Only 180 hotels rooms in Phuket have been reserved thus far under a government plan to subsidize accommodation for tsunami victims and their relatives coming to attend memorial services to mark the first anniversary of the disaster, it was revealed at the CEO Governor’s meeting on Wednesday.
Lack of interest in the plan – the number is less than 2% of the 10,000 rooms the government initially thought it would need to accommodate all the guests – renders moot what appeared to be a growing tussle between the government and hotel owners over the project.
Some hotel industry analysts thought it was unfair for the government to ask them to break their commitments to package tour operators to free up the rooms, especially at a time when tourist arrival numbers are beginning to return to normal.
Under the government’s plan, one relative of each victim and around 7,000 people injured in the disaster were invited to stay as “guests of the government” in rooms at hotels classified as “three-stars or higher”, the government picking up the tab for two nights’ accommodation and round-trip air fare.
At the meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall, Vice Governor Niran Kanlayanamit said the lack of interest in the offer was similar to the poor feedback received for a Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) “homestay” project, aimed at putting up visitors in homes of local residents.
Meanwhile, V/Gov Niran said, the Australian Embassy in Bangkok has been granted permission by the Phuket provincial government to hold a half-hour memorial service at Patong Beach on the morning of December 26.
The service will take place near the Soi Bangla intersection with the beach road, starting at 8 am. After the ceremony, attendees may join in memorial services in Patong that are being organized by the province, the meeting was told.
TAT Region 4 Director Suwalai Pinpradab said first-phase work on the “redevelopment” project now blocking much of the Patong beachfront will be completed in time to host the services.
Other memorial services organized by the province under a 2.04-million-baht budget approved by Cabinet will be held at Kalim and Mai Khao Beaches, V/Gov Niran said.
All are welcome to attend these events.
V/Gov Niran added that all but one of 18 tsunami warning sirens being built at beaches in the province should operational and linked to the National Disaster Warning Center headquarters in Nonthaburi Province before December 26.
The warning tower on Koh Lone is the only one not likely to be finished by this time, he added.
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