Suwat outlines tourism recovery plans

PHUKET CITY: Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop believes that marketing and rehabilitation of sites popular with tourists will be the keys to the recovery of the tourism industry along Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast.

DPM Suwat, responsible for overseeing the recovery of the tourism industry in the Andaman region in the wake of the December 26 tsunami disaster, was reporting during a January 27 meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other Cabinet members, held at the Royal Phuket City Hotel

The Deputy PM reported that hotel occupancy rates on the island, normally between 80% to 90% this time of year, have fallen to between 10% and 20%. While only 13,000 of the island’s 53,000 hotel rooms – about 25% – sustained damage, reports in the international media of unsanitary conditions and the possibility of outbreaks of disease have caused a sharp downturn in the number of tourist arrivals.

The effect has also hurt the tourism industry on a national level, with the number of arrivals at Bangkok International Airport down by 9%, he said.

“In terms of marketing, the Finance Ministry must help business operators affected by the tsunami in the short term, otherwise we won’t be ready to serve tourists,” he said.

The government intends to play a key role in the marketing effort by pushing to have a series of high-profile events sited here. These include international conferences, sport competitions and even the Miss Universe pageant, he said.

“Every year we will invite tourists who lived through the tsunami, and relatives of its victims, to come to Phuket for a memorial ceremony,” he said, adding that the Government plans to open a tsunami museum for this purpose and to educate visitors about the dangers of the giant waves.

Noting that the number of Thais visiting the region has also halved, DPM Suwat said the government was ready to put into action plans to promote domestic tourism, such as by siting in the Andman provinces any government seminars, meetings or conferences that were scheduled to take place outside Bangkok.

Regional tourism would also be promoted. “We will help stimulate regional tourism from countries such as China, Singapore and Japan, which have a better grasp of the situation here,” he said, adding that delegations of tourism industry leaders and media from those countries are expected to arrive here soon for inspection tours.

DPM Suwat also suggested temporary elimination of entry fees and a reduction of aircraft landing fees at Phuket International Airport as other options to be considered, as well as placing a greater emphasis on “cultural tourism”.

“In the past we promoted the region’s beautiful natural resources, but now we plan to include the region’s cultural heritage as well, such the unique lifestyle of the Sea Gypsies,” he said.

Phuket News
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