Tourism in Phuket, Thailand has faced a major blow after 47 Chinese tourists died when tourist boats capsized in rough seas, as reported by Thailand’s Universal Daily News on July 14.
As revealed by Kongsak Kupongsakorn, the president of the Southern Hoteliers’ Association, the negative impact has exceeded local hotels’ expectations. Based on the reported figures so far, over 7,300 rooms booked for July and August in 19 hotels on the island have been canceled by Chinese tourists, causing over seven million baht (210,000 US dollars) in losses.
The downturn in tourism, besides being a direct result of the tragedy that happened on July 5, may also be contributed by Thai Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon’s remarks.
“The whole incident is basically the Chinese people harming their own citizens,” stated the Thai Deputy PM General on July 9 during a press conference, in which he blamed the tragedy on Chinese operators instead of Thailand’s negligence.
Chinese tourists and netizens fired back by saying his comments were irresponsible and offensive. The authorities apologized for his remarks the next day.
After the boats sank, the local hotel booking rate nosedived by 80 to 90 percent at Patong beach and by 50 percent across the province. Besides for Chinese visitors, considerable numbers of tourists from other countries also cancelled their rooms.
The canceling trend is inevitable, Kongsak pointed out, and the damage isn’t only limited to hotels, but also other tourist sectors including transportation, shopping and sightseeing. The impact of the boat accident are estimated to remain until September.
Chinese tourists often spend around 20,000 baht (600 US dollars) per person per visit. Thailand’s tourist sector, mainly in the southern provinces during the low season, are reliant on their spending, reported The Bangkok Post on July 15.
Kongsak urged the government to overhaul all transportation safety measures thoroughly if it wanted to reclaim the confidence of foreign travelers.
According to The Bangkok Post, his idea resonated with the Phuket Tourism Council president Sarayut Mallam, who made similar appeals and called for wider publicity of the suggested increased safety checks.
The Phoenix tourist boat overturned off the coast of Thailand's Phuket on July 5. There were a total of 89 tourists on board the Phoenix, 42 of them were rescued and 47, all Chinese tourists, were killed.
The last body was retrieved on Sunday after a nine-day joint cooperation between Chinese and Thai rescue forces, according to the Phuket government and the Chinese Embassy in Thailand.