Operators Hopeful of Songkran Bonanza

Private tourism operators are entertaining hopes that the flood-ravaged major tourist destinations in the South will be restored and ready to accommodate travellers in time for the Songkran festival. But southern bookings down amid flooding

At present, no country has issued a travel warning for the southern provinces but 16 have advised their citizens to check weather forecasts before travelling, including Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan.

Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said the tourism situation in Phuket and Krabi would return to normal very soon.

“Tourists, both local and foreign, can visit Phuket and Krabi during the Songkran festival,” he said.

For Koh Samui, 20-50% of room reservations for Songkran have been cancelled amid reports of serious storms and floods hitting the island, damaging roads and public infrastructure.

However, Bannasat Ruangjan, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said major utilities such as electricity and water supply, roads, the airport and ports were ready to serve tourists in the upcoming holidays.

“We’re still happy with the 50% reservation level for this Songkran as it is better than last year, which was only 30% due to the political instability,” he said.

According to a survey of University of Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), spending during the Songkran festival is forecast to rise by only 3.41% to 96.49 billion baht against 99.5 billion baht estimated earlier.

The figure was based on the survey of 1,183 respondents conducted from March 28 to April 3.

The survey found 92.2% of the respondents would opt to travel domestically with only 7.8% saying they would travel overseas, mainly to Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Malaysia, during the Songkran celebrations.

For the domestic market, most people planned to travel to central provinces such as Chon Buri, Rayong, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan, followed by provinces in the North like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and then northeastern and southern provinces.

If it weren’t for the floods, southern provinces, particularly Phuket, Krabi and Phangnga, would have been the third choice among local tourists during the long holidays, said Thanavath Phonvichai, an economist at UTCC.

The THA also reported that April reservations in many tourist destinations were at a record high in three years in the absence of political unrest seen in the past few years.

The association reported that advance hotel bookings for Songkran in Pattaya and Phuket stood at a healthy 90-95% while the figure was about 70-75% in Chiang Mai, up from 40-50% last year. In Bangkok, the occupancy rates during the festival will be 50%, up from only 20% last year.

Mr Prakit said this was the first time in three years that hotel and tourism operators were seeing bright prospects.

“If the trend continues until the end of this year, we strongly believe that the 2011 projection of international tourist arrivals at 16.8 million will be achieved,” he said.

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