WTO Phuket action plan adopted

KATA: A multi-point Phuket Action Plan drawn up by the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) to speed the recovery of Phuket’s battered tourism industry has been accepted by a WTO Emergency Session that drew togther representatives from 40 countries.

The multi-point plan, approved during the session held yesterday and today at the Kata Beach Hotel, contains the following strategies:

– Immediate financial assistance for small tourism businesses;

– Communication of the current operational status of Phuket’s resorts;

– Diversification of tourism products including more cultural and nature-based activities and a move away from the traditional “sea-and-sand” options;

– Training of new staff and retraining of existing staff to meet tourists’ expectations;

– More “added-value” or complementary offers and promotions from, for example, restaurants, tour operators and shops;

– Realistic and up-to-date travel advisories issued by government of countries from which tourists come.

Dr Harsh Varma, the WTO Chief of Technical Cooperation, said of the plan, “[It] is a catalyst for cooperation among the member states of the WTO and the PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) countries as well as all varieties of organizations, private businesses and academic institutions [in the region].”

Dr Varma also said that both internal and external partners will be encouraged to sponsor and implement projects from the plan, when they correspond with their capabilities and financial resources.

Maximizing the use of the existing tourism infrastructure will, he said, help small tourism-related businesses and their employees survive the recovery period.

“[The WTO] must restore travelers’ confidence in the region so that visitor flows resume as quickly as possible,” said Dr Varma.

The presentation contained plans for Phuket and other areas of Thailand affected by the tsunami and also for regions of other countries – notably Sri Lanka, The Maldives and Indonesia – which were hit.

Dr Varma also said that systems should be put in place that strengthen the sustainability of the affected destinations and divided this secondary plan into four areas:

– Marketing and communications;

– Community relief;

– Educational and training;

– Sustainable redevelopment.

The WTO and other organizations, as well as individual countries will, he said, work with the United Nations on disaster reduction and mitigation programs in the region.

One of the marketing strategies put forward was a so-called “Big Ticket Solidarity Day” whereby air passengers in the affected zones could win two free tickets to one of the affected countries.

He also said that hotels, resorts, newspapers and tour operators could organize other promotional giveaways.

“[They] could offer prizes of a holiday to one of the tsunami-affected destinations.”

Other ideas put forward to rebuild confidence among foreign and Thai tourists include a global advertising campaign showing “business as usual” in Phuket’s beach resorts.

The WTO has waived participation fees for countries of affected regions at tourism fairs including the FITUR (International Tourism Trade Fair) in Madrid recently, ITB (International Tourism Bourse) Berlin in mid-March and and SATTE (the South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange) in New Delhi in April.

International tourism organizations are collaborating to hold a special event dedicated to tsunami recovery on March 10, the day before ITB Berlin begins.

Phuket News
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