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Tsunami no longer a factor in Khao Lak tourism: Survey



by Bill Barnett

PHUKET: Phuket and other provinces along the Andaman Coast are currently making preparations to mark the seventh anniversary since the tsunami struck on December 26, 2004.

However, a market survey just released by brand agency Quo Global has concluded that memories of the 2004 tsunami no longer negatively affect decisions to travel to the Thai resort destination of Khao Lak, about 100 kilometers north of Phuket.

The survey, which targeted a cross section of tourists, residents and business owners, was conducted in the fourth quarter of this year.

About 80% of survey respondents, including 200 travelers from 22 countries, rated the tsunami as having “little to no” effect on their immediate travel plans.

Only 4% of respondents expressed a negative impression of visiting Khao Lak.

Debunking a common misunderstanding that Thai and other Asian short-haul visitors were largely deterred from the area due to a legacy of “ghosts”, 78% of Thais responded that this was not a barrier to their travel plans to areas or destinations where natural disasters had occurred.

Another key point of the report was the finding that although all groups surveyed showed high levels of knowledge about the tsunami, the length of time that has passed since the event has seen a sharp decline in the residual negative perception of its impact on the area.

There is little doubt that the “BES” – or “big event syndrome” – can greatly affect the travel industry in a virtual flash in today’s world of instant media. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster in April and the Bangkok floods in recent months are prime examples.

What is more dynamic is a tighter “rubber band effect” on global tourism, which is characterized by shorter lead times in advance bookings and widespread volatility across the travel industry.

The memory span of today’s travelers is getting shorter and shorter, given the deluge of daily breaking news items from near and far.

Perhaps the most revealing fact from the Quo research was that only 21% of domestic travelers considered Khao Lak as a destination that offers value for money. For Khao Lak, and Phang Nga on the whole, perhaps the tsunami storyline needs to be replaced with how the destination can compete in a sustainable way with its successful neighbor to the south – Phuket.

To view the results of the survey

— Bill Barnett


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