Floods dampen Sukhothai travel hopes
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Floods dampen Sukhothai travel hopes

A view of flooding caused by a broken dyke along the Yom River in Sukhothai's Muang district. (Photo: Royal Irrigation Department)
A view of flooding caused by a broken dyke along the Yom River in Sukhothai's Muang district. (Photo: Royal Irrigation Department)

The floods hitting several northern provinces have worsened the tourism outlook in Sukhothai as local travellers cancel trips to the area.

Wiwat Tharawiwat, president of the Thai Hotels Association's lower northern chapter, said more than 30% of hotel bookings were cancelled on account of flooding, even though the deluge affected only certain parts of the province like Sawankhalok and Si Samrong districts.

The vast majority of hotels and tourism attractions, such as Sukhothai Historical Park, remain intact, while locals in the main city outside flood-prone areas continue with daily life, Mr Wiwat said.

But facts are no match for fear, and hoteliers received an influx of phone calls during the last two weeks on news about flooding in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Lampang caused by tropical storm Sinlaku.

The average occupancy rate of 150 hotels in Sukhothai during July and August was 20%, compared with 70% in the year-earlier period.

"Floods have dampened the tourism situation further after sluggish demand due to the coronavirus outbreak hitting the industry here," Mr Wiwat said.

The situation is all the worse because international tourists who usually visit Sukhothai during the green season cannot travel to Thailand now.

Mr Wiwat said the domestic stimulus scheme mainly benefits operators in major cities rather than the 55 second-tier provinces, which include Sukhothai.

Tourism operators in the province are requesting privileges to boost less-popular destinations. The scheme could come with a subsidy of up to 70-80% because these provinces have cheaper cost of living.

The time frame of the scheme could be extended beyond Oct 31 or to the end of the year and allow local tourists to book hotel rooms at least three days before check-in.

Satit Boonthong, president of the Nan Tourism Business Association, said the recent flash floods did not affect overall tourism sentiment in the province, as about 10% of bookings were cancelled.

Hoteliers in Nan are trying their best to keep guests posted with the latest information, while Thai AirAsia is operating three or four flights a day as usual.

"Accessible financial aid is the most urgent need for operators after facing a tourism slowdown from the outbreak and the floods," Mr Satit said. "So the government has to speed up soft loans to help mitigate the impact of the virus."

He said some operators will also have to renovate properties after the floods, especially in hard-hit Wiang Sa district.

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