Tsunami cost B20 billion in tourism revenue

PHUKET: The province has lost at least 20 billion baht in revenue from tourism between January and March because of the December tsunami, Tourism Council of Thailand President Vichit Na Ranong said on Friday.

K. Vichit said, “Phuket makes on average 70 billion baht a year from tourism. Generally, the province makes around twice as much revenue in the high season as it does in the low season – a ratio of, say, 45 billion baht [in the high season] to 25 billion [in the low], or 50 billion to 20 billion.

“We lost at least 20 billion baht between January and March – the high season – and if you consider that in the light of the ratios [I just mentioned], you can see just how significant this is.”

K. Vichit reiterated claims that the banks have been too slow in distributing soft loans to people who lost businesses and homes to the tsunami, and that the province faces an uphill battle in persuading tourists that Phuket is not as devastated as TV coverage may have them believe.

Another possible cause for concern among foreign tourists, said K. Vichit, is the continuing unrest in Thailand’s deep south.

He said, “People think that there could be a bomb or something similar in Phuket, but we need to inform people about what government officers and private individuals have done to make this area safe, such as security checks at the airport.

“But they could bomb anywhere there are lots of tourists – theme parks, hotels and so on.

“So, it must be the responsibility of business people – or anyone – to watch out for suspicious people or things, and to report them to the authorities.”

He continued, “If we can prove that we are doing this, it should give tourists the confidence to come back.”

But K. Vichit warned, “The government has to hurry. Asian tourists are due here in July and August, and if we leave it til too late we will miss the opportunity to attract them. And if we continue to delay, we will miss the Europeans, who will have booked [holidays] elsewhere.”

The President of the Phuket Tourist Association, Pattanapong Aikwanich, supported K. Vichit, and called on the government to invest more in marketing the province.

“Occupancy rates across the island are currently running at around 20%. Private concerns don’t have much power – it’s up to the government to help,” he said.

K. Pattanapong said he had asked the government to arrange publicity-friendly activities for important people from abroad, and to try to persuade more Thais to visit the province, as well as to offer to subsidize the cost of conferences and exhibitions here to make Phuket more attractive to organizers.

Phuket News
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