Phuket boat fiasco takes toll on July growth

Phuket boat fiasco takes toll on July growth

A few Chinese tourists walk on Patong beach, Phuket.
A few Chinese tourists walk on Patong beach, Phuket.

The Phuket boat tragedy in July has begun to ripple through Thailand's tourism industry, with growth in arrivals from China virtually flat that month.

A boat capsized in a storm off the resort island on July 5, claiming the lives of 47 Chinese nationals.

The tragedy has left a dent in the tourism market, with the number of Chinese arrivals in July up 0.04% year-on-year after a 20% rise in June, said Yuthasak Supakorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Many Chinese have expressed doubt over safety in the Thai tourism industry, while criticism of senior Thai officials who pegged the blame on Chinese businessmen has resonated on social media.

While the TAT is maintaining its arrivals projection from China at 10 million this year, Mr Yuthasak said he would fly to Beijing in mid-August to discuss improving safety and security measures, particularly in marine tourism, with top officials from the China National Tourism Administration and the Culture Ministry.

China has become the largest source market for Thailand's tourism industry and is projected to contribute 200 billion baht in revenue this year.

During the first five months, this market already generated 100 billion baht thanks to the rise in independent travellers, who spend more, on average, than those coming in groups.

The TAT also plans to ask tourism authorities and operators in China to help strengthen and restore two-way travel between Thailand and China, as well as take part in joint marketing campaigns.

Mr Yuthasak expressed hope that Chinese tourist numbers would return to normal during the Golden Week period (Oct 1-7).

He said he would push for the establishment of a national tourism safety centre to oversee and manage crises more efficiently.

The establishment of that body is pending approval from the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

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