The brunt of the tourism fallout from the deadly bombing in Bangkok on Monday (August 17) has yet to reach the shores of Phuket, with not a single flight service cancelled and immediate booking cancellations massing to only 5 per cent of occupancy, say leading tourism officials.
“People are still travelling here as per normal,” said Monrudee Gettuphan, Director of Phuket International Airport.
“So far we have had no cancellations from tourists who purchased airlines ticket to come to Phuket and no cancellations from international flights either. All airlines are still operating all flights as usual.”
Ms Monrudee reaffirmed that security at the airport has been ramped up.
“After the explosion at the Ratchaprasong Intersection (in Bangkok), I ordered all departments at the airport, including Navy personnel and police that work in the area, to be on high alert and to increase their patrol areas to ensure maximum security all around inside and outside the facility,” she said.
Navy, police and bomb squad security personnel are stationed at the airport main gate and patrol units are checking all vehicles coming and leaving the airport. Inside the building, even maids and housekeeping have been told to look for anything out of the ordinary.
“Baggage checks have also been tightened up. Officers are paying more attention to detail and have increased the number of random checks. We notify tourists in advance about delays that they may encounter,” Ms Monrudee explained.
Krisada Tansakul, president of the Thai Hotels Association’s Phuket-based Southern Thailand Chapter, confirmed that hotel bookings cancelled after the bombing amounted to 5 pc of occupancy.
“After the bomb incident, we found out that about 5 pc of tourists had cancelled their hotel reservations in Phuket,” he said.
“This incident certainly will affect tourism, but we must follow the situation closely to see how long and how much it will cost. Right now, the foreign media are attacking Thailand from every angle, the so government must solve this issue fast.”
Despite the cancellations, Mr Krisada noted that so far the impact has been negligble.
“Phuket is still in the low season (for tourism), and overall we have a hotel occupancy rate of 62pc on the island,” he said.
“For the tourist destinations like Patong, we have about 80pc occupancy, which is actually better than previous months, but if horrific incidents like this keep happening in Thailand, tourists will eventually avoid our country as their vacation destination.”
Bhuritt Maswongssa, Vice President of the Phuket Tourist Association, also called on the government for swift action in their investigation into the bombing and for people to “act responsibly” when posting comments online.
“The tragic incident will affect tourism, but to learn how severe the impact will be we have to wait for government officials to conclude their investigation and discover the reason behind this horrible act,” he said.
“Bombings happen not only in Thailand. Many countries face similar situations, so we have to search for the true reason behind the bombing and what went wrong that provoked this horrible incident to happen in our country.
“We must be able to tell the world what really happened, who did it and why, so we can put an end to all the rumours and speculation that are circulating in the media and on social media.”
In calling for responsible reporting and posting of comments online, Mr Bhuritt said, “Do not post or share inappropriate pictures or information that has not been confirmed as true.
“Many pictures and information shared on social media only cause more confusion and damage to Thailand’s image,” he said.