Northern Hotels Expect Short-lived Impact

Hotel operators in the northern provinces expect only a brief impact on the tourism business following Thursday night’s earthquake.

The event would shake the confidence of tourists, particularly local travellers, but only briefly, said Panut Thanaalopanich, the president of the Thailand Hotels Association’s Northern Chapter.

The epicentre of the 6.8 earthquake in Burma was about 111 kilometres from Chiang Rai and 252 km from Chiang Mai.

Residents in both provinces felt the tremble and fled their houses and buildings.

“In fact, it was not the first time that people here have experienced such tremors,” said Mr Panut. “But the increased panic may be because of the severe impacts of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.”

Many hotels in Chiang Mai received telephone calls from clients but none of them made cancellations, he said.

The average occupancy rate of hotels in the North since the start of this year has been around 60%, an increase of 1.4 percentage points from the same period last year.

Members say 30% of their available rooms have been booked so far for the Songkran holidays in mid-April and the rate should reach 70% as the festival draws nearer.

Rapid economic development has led to a number of highrise buildings emerging in Chiang Mai in recent years. Among the tallest buildings in the province are the Westin Hotel Chiangmai (30 floors), the 103 Condominium (28 floors), Royal Lanna and Flora Chiangmai (27 floors), and the 23-storey Rydges Hotel and Riverside Condominium.

Mr Panut said that after the quake on Thursday night, local authorities in Chiang Mai sent staff to observe buildings and hotels after but found no damage.

Sarawut Saetiao, president of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, said concern in the wake of the quake was unlikely to reduce tourism over the Songkran festival.

He said the association would step up promotions to attract domestic travellers to compensate for a decline in international tourists, especially from quake-hit Japan and also from Europe.

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