THE death of 47 people in a tragic boat accident in Thailand’s southern resort island of Phuket earlier this month has led to a widescale cancellation of accomodation bookings.
The high number of cancellations has alarmed Thai tourism authorities who said 7,300 hotel bookings for July and August have been called off by Chinese tourists, according to The Nation.
And with Phuket receiving an average of three million Chinese visitors a year, the cancellations are expected to take a huge chunk out of the overall tourism dollars for the Southeast Asian nation earned from some 10 million Chinese tourists annually.
Tourism industry players said the figure was expected to rise as hotels report the status of the bookings.
This is a major concern for Chatchai Tipsunavee, permanent secretary at the Tourism and Sports Ministry, who said the government has taken remedial action in wake of the accident. The current total of cancellations account for 10 to 15 percent of the overall business generated for the popular island.
President of the Southern Hoteliers’ Association, Kongsak Kupongsakorn, said the 7,300 hotel bookings were reported by 19 member hotels with another 160 yet to provide their status.
He said the negative impact of the June 5 accident was more serious than what the industry had anticipated.
The Nation also quoted Chiaya Rapuepol, president of the Andaman Sea tourism business association, as saying that the tragic event could lead to THB42 billion (US$1.26 billion) in lost revenue for the industry in the next two months.
Chiaya said it was also urgent for the government to do more to prevent more damage to Phuket’s tourism industry, which earns an estimated THB350 billion (US$10.5 billion) annually.
The Phoenix had 101 on board, including 89 tourists, all but two of them from China, when it went down in rough seas last Thursday during an outing to a small island. Forty-two passengers and the crew of a dozen Thais were rescued.
The captain of the Phoenix has been charged with negligence causing death, police said. He has denied the charges.
Despite the drop in advanced bookings, Thailand’s tourism sector, which accounts for 12 percent of southeast Asia’s second largest economy, has proved resilient to accidents, political turmoil and even bomb attacks over the past decade.
Two other boats capsized in the same vicinity as the Phoenix recently but their passengers were brought safely to shore.
Additional reporting by Reuters