Thai tourism sector works to soften impact of Phuket boat tragedy

The cause of the accident off the coast of Phuket’s Coral Island is still yet to be determined

Hopeful that the impact from the Phuket boat accident in July will eventually tide over, Thai tour operators and hotels specialised in the Chinese market are working hard to overcome business declines in the meantime.

Even though the recent disaster will likely take the shine off Chinese arrivals in 2H2018, the Thai Ministry of Tourism Sports still expects the number of Chinese tourists to the country to reach its forecasted 10 million for the year.

From January to July, nearly 6.9 million Chinese visitors arrived in Thailand, marking a year-on-year increase of 21.4 per cent, although July’s figure was actually a drop of 0.9 per cent.

Waters off Phuket’s Coral Island

Adith Chairattananon, honorary secretary general of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) and president of Golden Discovery Express, said that the number of Chinese arrivals to Bangkok from July to August has dropped 30 per cent since the Phuket boat tragedy.

However, he expects Chinese arrivals will increase during the Chinese Golden Week holidays this October, albeit to a lower number than was recorded last year.

To woo back Chinese travellers, ATTA will conduct roadshows in China’s Tianjin, Qingdao, Hefei, and Nanjing from September 16 to 21 to promote quality and safe tourism in Thailand.

“This is part of a strategy to stimulate the Chinese market in the last season of this year. The selected cities have a total population of 250 million, (and hence represent huge potential),” Adith explained.

Meanwhile, Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of Thai Hotels Association Southern Chapter, told TTG Asia that the number of Chinese groups has decreased by 50 per cent, based on feedback from hotels in Phuket that mainly welcome Chinese groups.

It remains to be seen if the Chinese market will rebound during the Golden Week peak, but Kongsak is positive FIT demand will remain strong.

In the short term, Kongsak recommends that hotel suppliers targeting Chinese tourists to promote their products in other markets at the same time to make up for any loss from the Chinese market.

He is confident that Chinese tourists will eventually return to Phuket as steps are being taken to beef up safety measures.

“The government and private sectors are cooperating to build trust among Chinese tourists by enforcing stricter laws and approving a budget to improve the Phuket port,” he d.

“The Digital Economy Promotion Agency is now responsible for developing a system to check tourist information at the Phuket port. In doing so, officials will know the number and names of tourists before (boarding).”