Minister: Samui blackout not serious
- Published: 7/12/2012 at 06:23 PM
- Online news:
SURAT THANI: The three-day electricity blackout on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan won't hurt the local tourism industry much, Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa said on Friday.
Power was back on the two popular tourist islands in the southern coastal province of Surat Thani after engineers spent the night successfully restoring electricity.
"The outage won't affect tourists and tourism business operators to a great extent because Thailand has a competitive advantage in tourism and is also a regional hub, and foreigners like to come here," Mr Chumpol said.
Thousands of tourists fled the islands after the electricity supply was cut completely on Tuesday because of a rupture in a section of a 30-kilometre-long cable in tambon Taling Ngam on Samui.
The repairs could not be rushed as engineers had to make sure the work met international safety standards, the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) said on Thursday.
Thanongsak Somwong, chairman of the Koh Samui tourism promotion association, said the blackout was expected to cause at least 12 billion baht in damage to tourism on the island.
Mr Chumpol, however, painted a rosy picture overall, saying international tourist arrivals to Thailand this year should reach 21.5 million with revenue of at least 800 billion baht.
The minister said more big sporting events were planned in southern Thailand in an effort to draw more tourists. The country will also host the World Deaf Futsal Championships in 2015 and the fourth Asian Beach Games in 2014, he added.
Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said local residents of Samui and Phangan were concerned about the risk of power oputaes and the economic consequences.
However, they did not generally welcome the idea of building a natural gas-fired power plant in their area.
"Authorities might consider building a wind or solar power plant here because even though they're costly it's still necessary for creating confidence about energy supply and it can be used a selling point to tourists," Mr Yutthachai said.
He also expressed concern that power outages might occur on other islands where more tourists go, such as Koh Chang in Trat province.
The government should study the recent blackout and ensure that it can prevent a similar incident from happening again, he said.
The environmental group Greenpeace said the blackout in Surat Thani showed that Thailand still lacked efficient electrical system.
Greenpeace said the government needed to consider using alternative energy sources such as wind or solar on Samui and Phangan, as they can generate about 90 megawatts of electricity per day.
The PEA plans to start supplying electricity to the islands through a new underwater cable in March. It will provide up to 200 megawatts of electricity.
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- Writer: Online Reporters
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