Tourism in Koh Samet could lose over 1.5 billion baht as the recent massive oil spill shatters travel confidence for the next three months, while tourism operators urge the government to impose more stringent preventive measures to protect natural resources.
Sarinthip Tupmongkholsup, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samet, said about 150 hotels, including 4,000 rooms, have seen a surge in cancellations.
At present, there remain very few long-stay tourists who checked in prior to the incident.
There are no new bookings from local tourists despite the Chinese New Year holiday.
Meanwhile, international tourists under the Test & Go scheme have already postponed their trips or decided to choose other destinations.
Ms Sarinthip said operators are studying the impact on tourism. From the initial forecast, the island is expected to lose over 500 million baht per month.
The stakes are quite high as January to April is the peak season for the domestic market.
Travel confidence will definitely take no less than 1-3 months to recover as tourists are concerned with health issues related to oil and chemical contamination from the cleaning process.
"Tourism operators struggling to recover business from the outbreak had high hopes for the market in February. But the oil leak has exacerbated our prospects for the foreseeable future," Ms Sarinthip said.
She said the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, the Department of Fisheries and other maritime-related agencies have to take this issue more seriously and jointly work together with locals to restore the marine ecosystem.
Experts from state agencies should help offer useful information to restore travel confidence once the situation improves.
Ms Sarinthip said locals want to count on themselves by resuming tourism activities and local fisheries rather than waiting for financial relief. They hope to see better preventive measures to avoid such incidents again.
She said the government has to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at stricter rules for factories and oil companies based nearby along the coastline from Map Ta Phut, Muang and Ban Chang districts to be more careful in terms of environmental impact.
She said the MoU must enforce tougher punishments on those who leak hazardous substances within the country's territorial waters.
The rules should require additional monitoring, such as quarterly checks on preventive maintenance of underwater pipelines from an annual schedule to avoid any leaks in the future.