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Tourism Authority of Thailand

Clean-up operations under way in South Thailand

With major clean-up operations under way in South Thailand beach resorts affected by the December 26 tsunami…

With major clean-up operations under way in South Thailand beach resorts affected by the December 26 tsunami, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is anticipating that places which have not suffered serious structural damage may be ready to receive visitors again within one month. Earth-movers, cranes and bulldozers have been deployed to clear up the debris in many of the areas.

TAT staff are on high alert and working actively in cooperation with airlines, government officials and the private sector to ensure relief and safe return of international visitors to their home country.

At a press conference today, TAT Governor Mrs Juthamas Siriwan also announced that TAT is cancelling all its planned New Year celebrations, including the annual ‘Countdown’ extravaganza in Bangkok and other provinces.

Mrs Juthamas said, “Given the extent of the tragedy and the loss of life region-wide, it would be highly inappropriate to go ahead with celebrations. We think people will well understand.”

She said the private sector would remain free to do as it wishes.

TAT has dispatched a survey team to the affected sites to assess the situation. Mrs Juthamas herself toured the area by helicopter to get an overview of the affected areas.

She said, “Although the tsunami caused serious damage in many areas, a lot of other places are only covered with debris. These areas have seen little or no damage and only need to be cleaned up to be open to visitors again.”

Partnering with local airlines — THAI Airways International, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Orient Air, Phuket Air and Nok Air – TAT has helped transfer thousands of visitors back to Bangkok and put them up in arranged accommodation.

In coordination with the Thai Hotels Association (THA) and Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), more rooms are being arranged to receive the many thousands more expected to arrive. Chain hotels are also helping to transfer guests to their properties in Bangkok.

The Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) has set up centres in Patong Beach in Phuket, Takua Pa and Kok Loi in Phang Nga, Krabim in Trang and Satun to provide free international calls to visitors wishing to call family and friends back home. CAT staff are also distributing free international call cards in other areas.

Most of the damage has been restricted to the specific parts of six provinces: Phuket, Krabi, Phang-nga, Trang, Satun and Ranong. In these places, too, not all areas have been affected. In Trang, many places are still safe with around 600 rooms available in a number of hotels.

Other parts of the country have not been affected. The beach resort of Pattaya is full as it is every year during this holiday season.

Mrs Juthamas said charters from Russia and Scandinavia that usually fly into Phuket at this time of the year have not yet been cancelled and TAT is working with them to divert their clients to other destinations like Hua Hin and Cha-am.

She said other beach resorts on the Gulf of Thailand like Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat are other options, especially for visitors from neighbouring source markets like Hong Kong and Singapore. The Chinese market has not been affected as they mostly travel to Pattaya.

TAT is encouraged by the many calls of sympathy it is getting from all over the world, with many callers asking when recovery efforts will be completed so that they can visit South Thailand.

Mrs Juthamas said TAT has begun looking at ways to upgrade the safety of swimmers and divers, especially with the view to facilitate identification in case of any unforeseen future accidents.

Appealing to all hotel owners to retain their staff during these crisis times, Mrs Juthamas said she expected TAT would be able to launch crisis recovery and marketing campaigns around March 2005, most likely at the world’s biggest travel trade show, Internationale Tourismus-Borse (ITB) in Berlin.

She added, “We express our sincere thanks to all government officials, the private sector, embassies and airlines for their help with the smooth transfer of passengers from the affected areas into Bangkok.”

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