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Thai media has painted a grim picture of tourism in southern Thailand, particularly Phuket.
Quoting a leading hotelier Manager said it was obvious that tourism in Phuket was going down the pan. Manager said that it was obvious to anyone that tourism had been in decline for years with less tourists and less revenue – but why was this? They turned to Kongsak Phupongsakorn for answers. He is head of the Thai Hoteliers’ Association for Southern Thailand. While accepting that June was always the worst month for tourism with it being low season Kongsak said that this year was terrible. Just as in reports about Pattaya yesterday when a tourism official there pointed at a 20-30% reduction year on year for June, Kongsak reported similar figures.
“Compared to last year tourism is down 20-30%,” he lamented. There are hopes that in July Asian and Australian travelers will take up some of the slack. But that is all they are – hopes. Most people are expecting July to be just as bad as June. Kongsak gave a number of reasons such as the sluggish world economy that sees people travelling less and spending less. It is not just Europeans feeling the pinch with their poor economies but Asians are affected too. The trade war between the US and China is also affecting investment. Investors as well as tourists themselves are running scared. Kongsak – unusually for such a report also laid the blame for the situation in Phuket fairly and squarely with the Thais themselves. He said that the the unpredictable and unclear political situation was scaring people. Continuing uncertainty and the long process in forming a new government has been terrible for tourism. Not just that – this has led to a lack of coherent policy regarding tourism. Then Manager – printing in bold in their report – came to more admissions about the Thais’ failings. Safety. Kongsak said that safety concerns of tourists had not been properly addressed leading to a lack of confidence. The Phoenix boat tragedy and response was clearly up front in his mind. For years the tourist market in Phuket saw sustained growth that promoted a building boom of hotels. But the increase – that saw tourism rise from 9 million visitors a year to 14 million within five years – has not been maintained. Hotels with new facilities have no guests to fill them and investors are not getting expected returns. More rooms and more restaurants has meant far more competition. He said that in an effort to woo what small number of tourists there are hotels in Phuket are offering rooms at up to 50% less than they did in the low season last year.