Tsunami Warning System Defended

Tourism operators in southern provinces have urged the government to stress to travellers that they should believe in the tsunami warning system and not fortune tellers.

Some travellers, mainly Thais, have cancelled package tours to the Similans and other nearby islands over the New Year because they fear a tsunami would hit the region on Dec 30 as a famous fortune teller has predicted.

“In fact, the tsunami warning system is still running well and the government should reassure tourists and residents about this,” said Yanyong Khopeth, a Tourism Council of Thailand member.

“Moreover, this message should be sent to our major tourism markets such as the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany.”

The council is concerned that tourist arrivals to the South will decrease next year if the worries about a tsunami persist.

The five main tourist source markets for Phuket are Australia, Sweden, the UK, Germany, and Russia. Others with high growth potential are Malaysia, Singapore, India, Korea and China. Europeans have high spending power and tend tom stay longer than other travellers.

“The government should focus on the high-spending markets and revise its marketing strategies by increasing its budget for trade shows such as the World Travel Mart 2011 in London and ITB Berlin,” said Mr Yanyong, who is also the managing director of the Laguna Beach Resort Khao Lak.

“The Thailand booth at these fairs should be promoted and organised in a way to give more information and draw back tourists.”

Thai tourism operators themselves are planning some new campaigns when they attend ITB Berlin, WTM London and the Arabian Travel Mart in Dubai. Some roadshows will also be arranged in China, India and Australia as tourists from these nations are on the rise to the kingdom.

On the other hand, marketing campaigns to promote tourism in the North and Northeast will focus on the domestic market.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry believes the number of international tourist arrivals to Thailand will reach 15.8 million by the end of this year. Popular destinations remain Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Chon Buri, Rayong, Phangnga, Krabi and Phuket.

For Phuket, tourist arrivals are forecast to increase to 5 million with total revenue of 100 billion baht by year-end, up from 3.37 million with revenue of 94 billion baht last year.

Sombat Kuruphan, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said Phuket now had a strong enough identity internationally to build its own brand separate from that of Thailand.

“Phuket has its own international airport, beautiful beaches and sufficient infrastructure. When the country faces political problems, Phuket won’t be affected easily,” he said.

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